News Report Staff

Danny Sheffield fears the new South Banker Street Business District could shut down his home improvement business someday.

Sheffield, owner of Bob’s Discount on South Banker Street, expressed opposition to the business district during a public hearing Tuesday afternoon about two hours before Effingham City Council members voted for the district plan and added sales tax.

The business district, which establishes an additional 1 percent to many retail sales along the South Banker corridor, is considered a way to “market the area for developers.”

Sheffield said that added tax would create an advantage for any Big Box Store outside existing business districts in the city. The South Banker Business District would extend from the railroad overpass connecting at Banker and Fayette and run south to Hoffman Drive.

“I’ve got to compete with a Big Box Store in Effingham,” Sheffield said during the hearing, referring to Menards and its sales on kitchen, baths, furniture, cabinets and doors. “People will drive across town for $50 difference in the price I offer. I don’t see any benefit from this, personally.”

Bob’s Discount, formerly Bob’s Salvage, was started in Effingham by Danny’s father, Bob Sheffield, about 30 years ago. Danny said there used to be customer loyalty in his business line. But that is just a memory. Online sales and large corporations draw away customers from family-owned businesses.

A business district is an economic tool to help improve or build up an area that has suffered from economic downturn, or needs a boost to draw commercial investment. The sales tax money would be used for improving existing business properties and infrastructure.

Sheffield said he didn’t need help tp improve his business.

“I do my own improvements on my property,” he said.

Sheffield emphasized the added sales tax would hurt him more than anything else. The added sales tax would be collected for up to 23 years. Sales exempt from the tax would cover most foods, medicine and transactions involving titled or licensed vehicles. The ordinance also allows for collecting 1 percent more on hotel room charges if those are developed in the future on the city’s south side.

The business district plan along South Banker has drawn criticism in recent weeks, but Sheffield was the only resident offering comments during the hearing. Sheffield was disappointed some elected officials didn’t show up to the hearing.

“The council votes on this and they’re not here to listen to any arguments against this. Those people ought to be here,” Sheffield said.

Mayor Bloemker was present at the hearing and talked to Sheffield after the hearing adjourned. The council vote later in the evening was in favor of the business district.

When asked about their lack of attendance at the public hearing, Commissioners Kevin Esker and Kevin Willis explained they were busy at work Tuesday afternoon. Merv Gillenwater and Don Althoff both indicated commissioners attending public hearings have raised questions in the past on different issues. Gillenwater said it might be inappropriate for council members to comment on an issue during a hearing.

Althoff said council members have been advised not to attend and rely instead on city staff to convey the summary of public opinions at any hearings. It was mentioned before the council’s business district vote that Sheffield had expressed opposition during the hearing.