Minonk has plans to rebuild where fire devastated downtown one year ago

By Joe Bennett

October 26, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2012 at 9:33 PM CDT

MINONK, Ill -- On the morning of October 26 last year, the city of Minonk lost what some called the business hub of their downtown cornerstone.

"You had an attorney, you had the dentist, you had an insurance agency right there on one corner," said Jay Jochums.

Jochums is the Vice President of that insurance agency.

He says community supporters came together while the fire was still ablaze and found new homes for the businesses that once stood there.

Within a week, the Meyer-Jochums Agency had relocated across the street, installing a portion of the old brick building as a sort of tribute.

"I kind of miss everybody being together right there," Jochums said. "Because you've got the camaraderie of all the other business owners."

That business hub has since relocated to different spots within and outside the community.

Minonk City Administrator Gary Brenan says property owners have no plans to rebuild.

Instead, they have had preliminary conversations with city officials hoping to purchase the property to build a community park.

Other business owners downtown like the idea.

"To develop this into a park or something else even kind of eliminates the eye soar," said Patsy May, owner of Sure Design. "And it kind of helps to heal the feelings of those who have lost a lot."

Although the potential plans are just beginning, the downtown community has high hopes of what could help restore the look of Chestnut and Fifth Street.

"Maybe a pavilion of some kind," Jochums told News 25/WHOI 19 News. "I know the city administrator had even talked about being able to show movies on the wall there on Friday nights for the kids, and if you have a downtown festival of some kind it's be nice to have a location to do it in."

Whatever happens with the land, community members say they recovered from disaster the way any small town proudly would, by helping one another to at least symbolically restore the heart of the city.

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