ERIE — Erie residents have overwhelmingly given their support for the city to buy the town’s only grocery store.

The Erie City Council could make a decision on the purchase of Stub’s Market in its regular meeting on July 13.

The council has been considering the city’s possible acquisition of the store for several months and agreed to survey all utility customers to determine community support for the idea. The deadline for returning surveys was Saturday.

City Clerk Cindy Lero said of the 606 surveys mailed, 311 were returned. Of those, 213 people said they supported the purchase of the business, while 92 opposed the idea. Six surveys were not counted because the tracking number was cut off, Lero said. The city included tracking numbers on the surveys to ensure no duplicated copies were submitted.

The council discussed the survey results in a Monday meeting, but City Attorney Seth Jones recommended delaying action until July 13 to give people a chance to ask questions or comment on the issue.

On Aug. 26, 2019, the council discussed the possibility of the city’s purchase of Stub’s with Shirlene Mahurin, who owns the store with her husband, David “Stub” Mahurin. The Mahurins approached the city about buying the store after they had trouble finding interested parties on the open market. An economic development committee has recommended the city buy the store to prevent the town from losing its only grocery store.

The economic development committee negotiated a deal with the Mahurins that would pay the couple $300,000 for the building and fixtures, plus inventory value at the time of the sale and 0.5% of gross sales for 10 years. Based on 2018 and 2019 sales, that amount would total $60,000 to $70,000. The city council discussed the proposal April 20 and stipulated that there would be no contract offered unless there is community support. 

Some Erie residents are opposed to the purchase of the store partly because utility customers would have to pay for any remaining debt if the store failed and the city shut it down. Based on the proposed purchase price, that could amount to as much as $5 per month per utility bill, but the amount could be much lower depending on when the store closed and the money received after asset liquidation.

Councilperson Cindy Friedrich said Wednesday that while the council may decide on the purchase July 13, she hopes it will hold off for a while.

“I’d like to slow it down a little bit. It’s a pretty big decision for a town the size of Erie, and we want to make sure we do things right,” Friedrich said.

Friedrich said she was pleased to hear that over half of the surveys were returned as she expected only about 100 responses. She hopes Erie residents will air their concerns and ask council members or city staff any questions they may have.

“It will be nice to know what they’re thinking about,” she said.

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