By Bob Balgemann


The Village of Poplar Grove and Boone County officials have been trying to have the old EPI building improved or torn down for several years.

On Monday, Jan. 16, the Poplar Grove Village Board approved a resolution to purchase materials with which to secure the two-story building at 101 East Ave. in Poplar Grove, one block off the downtown.

The building is vacant and has been condemned by the county.

Village President John Neitzel said the property owner has not secured or attempted to secure the building. So, for public safety purposes, he said the village “will spend funds on materials and use labor from the village and the county to attempt to secure the building.”

The county condemned the structure in November 2016 after it was damaged in a fire. The property owner was notified of that fact by Patricia Dashney, director of departmental operations for the county health department, in a letter dated Dec. 28.

In addition, she stated that two unused wells on the property must be properly abandoned. To do that, the company must obtain appropriate permits from the health department.

Previously, the county state’s attorney’s office has been involved with the issue and so has the county health department. At one point, the owner of the EPI Fruit Processing and Packaging building was fined $193,000 by a circuit judge for various problems.

More recently, the village and health officials met to discuss available options.

“We are now able to go in and board up the property to try to secure it from the public,” Village Administrator Diana Dystra said.

However, President Neitzel said that this would be a complicated issue.

“There is asbestos in the building that must be removed,” he said. “We had an estimate of $125,000 for asbestos removal a few years ago. We will continue to look for any Brownfield or blight grants. If we could get significant assistance through any grants, it would greatly resolve this ongoing problem.”

Recent action of the county board could help Poplar Grove in ridding itself of that building.

The county now is partnering with the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) in applying for a $600,000 federal Brownfields Coalition Assessment Grant, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Boone County Board Chairman Karl Johnson said he believed the coalition, consisting of RMAP, Boone, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties, has the initiative and resources to successfully carry out the grant activities. Those include inventorying and assessing Brownsfield properties and then leveraging other resources to clean up and redevelop those sites.

That has been a goal of Poplar Grove when it comes to the EPI property, but the resources have not been available.

County Administrator Ken Terrinoni will represent Boone in this coalition initiative.

There was no indication as to when the coalition will learn if its application has been successful.

Also on Monday, Jan. 16, the Poplar Grove Village Board authorized RMAP to devote 10 hours to planning the West Grove Park, and four hours to planning the dog park. The latter is an Eagle Scout project initiated by Ian Neibarger.

RMAP’s planning assistance would cost $45 an hour, compared with $100 to $175 an hour if an engineer was hired.

In addition, the board began taking steps to ensure that residents are complying with the ordinance requiring them to keep their garbage containers in “sight-tight” areas, out of view from the street.

Trustees plan to send out the message of required compliance on the village’s website and in water bills, which now are mailed to customers.

Advance notice will be provided that the village’s new code enforcement officer would be checking out residential and commercial properties, and warning violators.


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