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FOREST CITY | A visitors center could open in the former Casey's General Store at 106 S. Fourth St. as early as the spring of 2019.  

Forest City Mayor Barney Ruiter said the city has a need for a visitors center at that location.

He said he often sees motor homes pull up at Schnebly's Service Station -- also located on South Fourth Street -- because the drivers who just arrived in town are "trying to get their bearings." 

The visitors center will "give them more direct access to what's going on in Forest City," he said. 

In November 2017 the city agreed to purchase the former Casey's building and land for $1 and pay all costs associated with closing the transaction. 

Ruiter said the owners of the building were having difficulty finding a buyer.

He said he didn't like the idea of taking the building off the tax roll, but realized turning it into a visitors center would be a good fit with the city's participation in Iowa's Living Roadways Community Visioning Program.

Ruiter said the project also will provide some much-needed parking spaces for those who live in apartments in the downtown area. 

The cost to remodel the former Casey's would be around $95,000 if the city hired contractors to do the work, according to Ruiter. 

However, he said the cost would only be $50,000 to $60,000 if city employees provided the labor as they did several years ago for repairs to the fire-damaged police station.  

Local option sales tax revenue will be used to pay for the visitors center project. 

Ruiter said the rainy weather has made it difficult to get started on the project, but at the latest it should be completed a year from now. 

Work on the building could be finished earlier than that -- possibly by this spring -- if things go well, according to Ruiter. 

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