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LARC to operate super thrift in downtown

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Store will provide training, jobs for clients

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Dr. Bill Martin, the orothodontistt who has already invested in an attractive office park on Chiefland’s downtown Main Street, is joining forces with the Levy County Association of Retarded Citizens to put in another attraction: a 15,000 square-foot thrift superstore.

Plans for the store, which will provide training and employment for money-strapped LARC’s clients, won the blessing of the Chiefland City Commission at its regular Monday meeting.

The commission gave final approval to rezoning the property from residential to commercial. The construction of the store at Northwest 4th Avenue, just off Main Street, will also require the closing of Northwest 1st Street between Northwest 3rd and 4th avenues and the commission also approved a resolution for the closure.

“When I put my office complex down there, the intent was to change the face of that part of town,” Martin told the commission.

Chet Cole, executive director of Key Training Center which operates superstore thrifts in Citrus County for the Citrus County Association of Retarded Citizens, gave the commission a presentation on the proposed store and answered questions to assuage the commissions concerns that the property would be taken off the tax rolls once it is acquired by the non-profit Key Training Center and that the road closing would help accomplish the construction.

Each of the two parcels is valued at $40,000 and the city collected $190 in ad valorem taxes on each for a total of $380 in annual losses at the current millage rate. A third parcel of property on Main Street, where an auto detailing shop is located is valued at $94,685 and pays $454.34 in city property tax. Next to it the property is valued at $54,400 and paid the city $258.40 last year.

But the construction and operation of the building will bring in building permit and inspection fees, fire inspection fees, revenue for water, sewerage and garbage bills, and sales taxes.

Mayor Teal Pomeroy expressed some concern about the property coming off the tax rolls because it would be owned by the tax-exempt non-profit LARC. “It’s an unfair advantage to the folks here like the shop…the consignment shop,” Pomeroy said.

Realtor Dough King, who has worked on the project responded, “ “It’s a mission to serve these people. It’s not for profit. If it was a church it would not be a question.”

Cole explained that while it would not pay property taxes, the joint venture between Key and LARC would provide employment in a retail operation that is expected to net between $25,000 and $35,000 a month. He said the Citrus ARC stores earn $1.3 million a year.

Cole said merchandise for the store would come from donations by individuals — requiring a truck to be on the road in Levy County two days a week picking up donations — and commercial donors like Kmart and Bealls.

“The clients (of LARC) are working in the store. The clients are clerking. The clients are working the cash register,” Cole said. “This is just like walking into a Wal-Mart.”

Cole said Key Training is partnering with LARC and Martin to provide the funding for the building and land purchase. “Dr. Martin is giving us owner financing,” Cole said. “We will close with Dr. Martin next week.”

“We will build it and lease it to LARC for debt service.”

Because Key Training has a contractor on its staff he expects to have the building under construction in 60 to 90 days and “have this thing up in six to seven months.”

Cole said the original plan was to build a 20,000 square foot building but it was decided 15,000 would better serve the community. He said plans call for selling merchandise and to possibly have a café in the store

“We’re going to be producing revenue for LARC which is down to three days a week providing services to its clients.”