HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) - The deadly tornado that roared through Harrisburg on February 29th, is now threatening the economic future of the community.
"If we don't get the opportunity to offer some incentives to bring people back, have them rebuild, have these businesses com back, it's going to be devastating to our community," said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg. "It would be a second tornado."
Mayor Gregg says there are two factors feeding the economic disaster in his town.
"If we don't come up with a game plan very quickly we're going to see a mass exodus from this community. We're not only going to see businesses leaving, but families leaving."
That's because under current state and local laws any new homes built to replace the ones destroyed would be assessed at a higher tax rate.
And Mayor Gregg says the city is also going to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in sales taxes, as a result of the destroyed businesses.
"Here's what the city of Harrisburg is going to be faced with in a very short time period. We're going to be faced with cutting programs, departments and personnel everything to a drastic measure to just provide the essential needs of the community. Because we will not be able to afford to keep things going like we are at this time," said Gregg.
Many of the homes destroyed by the tornado three weeks ago were built decades ago. And now some of those homeowners say they can't afford to rebuild at today's costs. And pay higher real estate taxes too.
"Everybody is going to need a break here or they're going to leave," said Pete Craig. "People are just going to have a vacant lot, sell it and relocate. And buy an older home, or a cheaper home, or a modular home. Some kind of home where they can get a break on their taxes."
Mayor Gregg says he's working daily with state departments and legislative leaders to try to come up with a solution to the problem.
"There's a huge problem we're faced with as far as if you build back what your taxes could end up being here in the short term. We're trying to address that situation because we cannot afford to lose one home, one family or one business. That would be devastating to us just like this storm was."
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