RANTOUL — While a recreational cannabis dispensary wouldn’t likely open in Rantoul in the near future, the village board doesn’t want to take a chance. The board last week voted 4-2 to prohibit the start-up of cannabis business establishments in the community.

Trustees Hank Gamel and Sam Hall voted against the prohibition.

The action comes after fielding public input at village meetings as well as via phone, email or in person.

After the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation approving recreational cannabis dispensaries effective Jan. 1, they required municipal boards to vote whether they would allow them in their communities.

Gamel said he was prepared to vote to prohibit the dispensaries in town after the village board’s November study session, but changed his mind after talking with several people “who represented the other view on it.”

“I find their arguments and evidence very persuasive in that it cites contemporary research,” Gamel said.

He said he respects people who are “courageous enough  to disagree with the mainstream and stand and say so at a public meeting.”

Addressing the “keep-it-out-of-Rantoul mindset,” Gamel said the board should keep in mind that the General Assembly legalized recreational cannabis use in Illinois after Jan. 1.

“People in Rantoul will possess cannabis,” he said. “I know they do already. Do we still want to say, ‘keep that stuff out of Rantoul’ ... when any law-abiding citizen” can have it?

He said it seems it would be morally wrong to vilify someone who legally can buy cannabis somewhere else and bring it to Rantoul, just as it would for someone who buys alcohol.

Hall said simply he knew it would be a difficult decision and that his vote would be based on public comments and “the realities.”

“I’m weighing them both,” he said.

Trustees Terry Workman and Mark Wilkerson both spoke against legalizing cannabis sales in town.

Workman said the chance for the village to benefit financially from cannabis sales “is very, very limited” due to the restricted number of dispensaries being allowed by the state.

“Another issue that has been brought out was the (safety of youth), that they would be better off because we would have a cannabis dispensary and the cannabis would not be sold on the street,” Workman said. “That’s not a reality either. Cannabis will be sold on the street even if these cannabis dispensaries are here. Let’s face it, the cannabis sold at the dispensaries is going to be more expensive than the black market.”

Workman said making an informed decision has been a “challenging task.”

“It is one that I, myself, and I know several of the trustees have put a lot of time and effort into,” Workman said.

He said he and other trustees attended Illinois Municipal League conference sessions on the cannabis issue to educate themselves.

“There are many different laws that the state has put out that a lot of the people of the community don’t know about and a lot of the people of the state don’t know about,” Workman said, stressing the importance of trustees to be informed.

He also emphasized the need to examine the image that would be put forth in allowing cannabis sales “due to the growth we are going to have in the next two or three years.”

“The image we put out here is the most important thing I’m considering in my decision. That image is for a family-friendly community,” he said.

Workman said voting against local cannabis sales doesn’t mean the prohibition can’t be changed in the future, and he is open to further discuss the issue with the public.

His phone number and email address are listed on the village website.

Mark Wilkerson said in his role as pastor at Rantoul’s Maranatha Baptist Church, he has dealt with many people who are going through crisis situations and has never met a young woman or young man who said they wished their father was as a drinker or a marijuana user.

“I’ve seen the opposite,” Wilkerson said.

He said he doesn’t care if Rantoul would make any money if sales were legal.

“I don’t care how much money the village would get for this,” Wilkerson said. “I think it’s bad for families. I think Springfield messed up when they passed this for the state. The longer we can keep it out of Rantoul, the better we are.”

He said he knows there is plenty of cannabis around town, but “for the village to say it’s a good thing for our families is erroneous.”

Loan approval

The board voted 4-2 to approve a $40,000 village microloan to Civil Banshee, operated by David Silver. Wilkerson and Sherry Johnson voted against the loan. They did not give a reason for their vote.  

The loan will be paid back at 2 percent interest over five years with monthly installments of $701.  

Silver, who is the new owner of the building at 109 E. Sangamon Ave., plans to remodel the interior and exterior of the structure. He said he intends to secure the exterior from falling debris to allow the sidewalk and surrounding areas to be opened.

Silver also plans to renovate the residential apartment upstairs and make the main floor market ready.

Other business

The board also:

• Approved the appointment of Kevin Modglin to the planning and zoning commission for a term to expire in 2021.

• Approved a professional services agreement with Reifsteck  Reid for the design, development and construction service to replace roofing systems at four village facilities for $97,300. The buildings include Rantoul Business Center (18,500 square feet), the wastewater treatment plant-traveling bridge building (11,630), water treatment west plant (22,200) and the power plant (1,400).

• Approved a resolution for the final allocation of $21,000 for the shared-use path located along the former Fisher Farmers Grain & Coal railroad corridor from Garrard Street to Lon Drive, spanning nearly 2 miles.  The money will be the village’s share of the preliminary engineering costs.

• Authorized the approval of a supplemental Illinois Department of Transportation motor fuel tax resolution of $6,485 for the village’s share of the final construction costs ($231,485) for the milling and resurfacing of Clark Street, Bel Place and Eater Drive between Harper Drive and Short Street.

• Approved submitting a Brownfield Assessment Grant application for $300,000 to the United States EPA to assess and clean up brownfield sites — properties with real or perceived environmental contamination.

• Authorized the approval to purchase a S&C PME-10 pad-mounted switchgear for $79,102, Phase 1 materials for $15,374 and Phase 2 materials for $16,915 plus a project contingency fund of $5,000 necessary to support load growth due to the expansion of the Rantoul Foods hog processing facility in the industrial park.

• Heard from Hall who, with winter approaching, encouraged residents to check on their elderly neighbors to make sure they are all right. He also reminded that Forum Fitness Center is available as a warming center.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com