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CLINTON—The Clinton City Council turned over ownership of the former Taylor Magill Hotel Monday to a preservation group hoping to return the hotel to its early history as an anchor for downtown Clinton.

After months of back and forth negotiations, the council voted unanimously to approve a redevelopment agreement with the DeWitt County Restoration Association. The agreement gives the preservation group the ownership it needs to seek private and public funding for an estimated $6 million in renovations.

The hotel came into public hands several years ago when the city purchased the three-story building for $10,000 from an undercapitalized owner.

Terry Ijams, spokesman for the preservationists, said the council action will set several things in motion for the project.

"As soon as the title work is complete, we can begin work to secure the building. Work on the grants will be going on, too," said Ijams.

A grant application for funds to stabilize the west wing of the building is set for submission today, according to association members. The west wing is the newest section of the hotel and has seen significant deterioration in recent years. Discussions between the city and association have included a partial or complete removal of the west wing.

One of the first orders of business will be to board up missing windows in the historic building. The association will meet Wednesday to finalize an initial work plan. The title could be transferred within 10 days.

Several developers in St. Louis and one in Ohio have expressed interest in visiting the hotel site. A final agreement between the city and the association was viewed by preservationists as a key element in bringing potential developers to Clinton.

Mayor Roger Cyrulik said after the council session that the agreement represents the best assistance the city can offer to the project.

"The council has done everything we can do and still protect the taxpayer on the other end of the line," said Cyrulik.

Final approval of an agreement was delayed several times as the two sides debated how public funds could be made available for the project. The city collects tax increment financing funds for the project. City commissioners were concerned that the TIF money remain available for demolition of the hotel if development efforts fail. Association members asked they be allowed to access an estimated $350,000 in TIF money to shore up or demolish the west wing.

The final agreement includes provisions that will allow a developer to be reimbursed for construction costs with TIF funds. Specific conditions for public funding of west wing work also are a part of the agreement. If the west wing collapses before April 1, 2006, the association has the option to return the hotel to the city for demolition.

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