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Sonic buys old city hall property

updated: 1/12/2018 1:20 PM

Benton is getting a new fast food restaurant at 500 W. Main St., the former city hall location.

Finance Commissioner Dennis Miller announced at Monday's city council meeting the property was purchased by Sonic Restaurant Inc. during a public auction Jan. 2.

"I'm excited to announce we have a real estate sales contract in our possession. This is for the sale of the old city hall. This sale was executed on Jan. 2, and we have an agreed purchase price of $176,000. This is being purchased by S.A. Dewitt, also known as Sonic," Miller said.

The sale, conducted by auctioneer J. David Green of West Frankfort, was unanimously approved by the council. The property had been appraised at $296,000 by an independent firm.

Sonic officials confirmed the sale on Tuesday and said an independent franchisee plans to open the restaurant in 2019.

Sonic Drive-In is a fast food restaurant chain based in Oklahoma City, Okla. As of September 2017, there were 3,557 restaurants in 45 states. Known for its use of carhops on roller skates, the company reported operating income of $127 million and net income of $64 million in 2016.

Company officials were unavailable for comment on the sale.

In a separate motion, Miller suggested the proceeds of the sale be placed in a restricted fund for capital improvements. Miller said the city probably would need some funds to support the Wastena Street improvement project.

"I'm not saying that's what it will be used for, but I'm trying to think where we're going to need some funds going forward," Miller said.

The city still has several parcels of surplus property, including residential properties at 108 N. Ninth St., 411 N. Commercial St., 304 N. Grand St., the southeast corner of Buchanan and Smith streets, and the corner of S. Du Quoin and Smith streets. The old Webster School at Church, Jackson and Webster streets is also available. The appraised value of the "central business" zoned property is $70,000.

Preparation of a resolution establishing a fee schedule for "incidental rentals" of the Twin Oaks property was also approved. Miller said residents may want to use the facility to take photographs inside or for historic purposes. He suggested legal counsel and City Clerk Brook Craig establish the fee schedule.

Mayor Fred Kondritz received approval for having the city engineer prepare a Lake Hamilton subdivision Phase II plat. City Attorney Tom Malkovich described the property in question to be in the "old ball diamonds" area, south of the roadway.

Public Property Commissioner Ronnie Baumgarte thanked city workers for their work during the recent cold snap that resulted in several water main breaks.