An option to purchase about 15 acres from Robert Doherty, the proposed site for a veterans home, was discussed at length at the January 16 Preston City Council meeting.
The city has an option to purchase the property until later in February. Mayor Kurt Reicks reported that during a recent phone call with Doherty he learned that Doherty was not interested in extending the option. The land is for sale. Reicks suggested getting “first right of refusal.” Money put toward this would come off the purchase price if the city buys the property. With this kind of agreement the city would have to match another offer for the property if one were made, and if it didn’t, this money would be forfeited.
Councilwoman Holly Zuck said the city doesn’t need to own the property if we don’t end up using it. Reicks maintained a Veterans Home located in Preston would be a great asset to the community.
Ron Scheevel, co-chair of the Veterans Home Committee, insisted if we let this option go, we won’t have a site. The price is right ($14,000 per acre) and the terms are good. The terms are 15% down ($31,500) with the balance of $178,500 financed at 5%. The annual payment would be $30,000 (taking possibly six plus years to pay off). The city could pay it off earlier, but if it went for the six plus years, the total interest would come to $38,752.
The EDA board recommended exercising the option. There were concerns, however, that the project at this point is uncertain and long term. The EDA recommended the property be surveyed, setting the boundaries of the road, zoning to be set. They also recommended the closing to be scheduled after the end of the coming legislative session.
Scheevel spoke strongly in favor of exercising the option, insisting on behalf of veterans we need a site that is ready to go. The committee has been working on this for two years. Scheevel said he and his wife Pat will give the city a check for $10,000 to go toward the purchase of the property. Scheevel and Sons would also donate $10,000 worth of in-kind work. If a veterans home is not built on the property, the donation would stay with the site. He said something good will come from this property. He felt a need to contribute, noting he lives outside of the city.
Councilman Robert Maust suggested many people would like to contribute if the veterans home is to be at the Preston site. There is a competition with Spring Valley for the location of a Home, if a 74 bed veterans home is to be built within Fillmore County. Maust maintained the site is worth the money and there are a lot of opportunities for use of the land. He has suggested that the land can be resold if the home does not come to Preston. “If we are fortunate to get the veterans care center, it will change this community forever.”
City Administrator Joe Hoffman agreed surveying and preliminary engineering need to be done. A motion to work with City Engineer Brett Grabau and for the city to have the property surveyed, setting the boundaries was approved. Once the footprint is described, Doherty will be consulted to see if he agrees with the boundaries.
Other business in brief
• Fillmore County EDA director Marty Walsh introduced himself. He has been with the county since October. Walsh says the county EDA is there to serve the entirety of Fillmore County. Some projects being worked on include the creation of a recreation map for the whole county and a housing study.
• Gabby Kinneberg and Mayor Reicks both agreed the National Trout Center (NTC) had a great year. Reicks added Annie Lewis, outreach and fundraising, has been a great asset. Lewis and Kelsey Hoffmann, program director, were hired as part-time staff for the NTC. Kinneberg said visitors to the center almost doubled. The center provided both educational programs and fun family-friendly activities. Outreach efforts brought in nearly 100 business, individual, and family donors. The Preston Area Community Foundation provided a grant that will allow the center to rent out fishing equipment in 2018.
• The EDA recommended updating the Fillmore County 2009 Housing study. The EDA will participate with the Center for Small Towns to update the study. Approval was given for the EDA to use $500 from its professional service budget to participate.
• As recommended by the EDA, approval was given to restructure Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) loan (Ristau loan), asking the state to release (MIF) dollars back to the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). Ristau repayments would then be made to the RLF account. Hoffman explained there are more restrictions on MIF dollars.