Mystery business resurfaces at council

Staff writer

An unidentified business that rescinded an offer to buy 3.7 acres of land at Hillsboro Heights has made another offer to Mayor Delores Dalke in the past two weeks.

The city first announced the sale in March, and after 60 days the offer was taken back. Economic developer Clint Siebel said he questioned the party as to why they pulled out, but could not get an answer.

Business owners Eric Driggers of Greenhaw Pharmacy and Paul Barnes of Heartland Foods were on hand at Tuesday’s city council meeting, arguing what they think the effect would be on local businesses.

“If it’s a good thing, why is it such a secret?” Barnes said. “Every small town wants a new business, but if you’re just replacing the businesses already there, it hurts those people.”

When the contract was first offered, Siebel said the company was within the top 100 of the Fortune 500, selling fuel, groceries, and pharmaceuticals. The store was said to be planned for a smaller format than its larger entities, employing 20 to 30 people.

Driggers said pharmacies have preferred networks in which insurance companies would push customers toward stores like Walmart. He said a reliable source informed him it is a strong possibility that is what the company is.

“We already have lost business to McPherson and Newton,” he told council members. “It only gets worse when it’s down the block from you.”

Council members said they could understand problems facing local businesses in the face of larger franchises, and expressed a desire to know what the business is, but cannot legally reject an offer.

“We have land for sale,” Councilman Bob Watson said. “And if someone comes and wants to buy it I can’t say I don’t like you.”

Administrator Larry Paine added that the council cannot make decisions based on where residents shop.

“Those are the decisions made by the customers,” he said.

Council members approved the offer, making changes to the contract to send back to the company.

In other business:

  • Council members approved an $11,500 agreement with EBH Engineers to do construction inspection services for the smaller water tower project.
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