At the June 26 meeting, the Rushford City Council once again discussed the future of the former Rushford-Peterson School District facilities at 100 North Mill Street during a closed session meeting.
The historic site was sold to a private party in 2019 after the district expressed no interest in developing the properties. The city did indicate an interest in assuming control of the property rather than purchasing it, with a plan and funding in place for demolition, preparing the site for a potential developer. The city evaluated several options, including development and demolition. The estimated value of developing 30-unit townhomes was $8 million, while the estimated cost of demolishing the site was $350,000.
Lack of available grants and financial assistance and a high property valuation, too much to even consider a Tax Increment Financing District for outside developers, hindered options. The property’s size, location, maintenance costs, historical value, and community sentiment presented further ongoing challenges to potential ideas. The most viable course in the council’s view was to make the site “clean” for development. There was, however, sentimental value to citizens who lobbied to have the site repurposed instead.
In June 2019, the school district approved a proposal from Well House Ministry to purchase the site for $100 and raise $50,000 to cover insurance, technical support, and architect fees. Well House Ministry intended to develop a healing and ministry center, including a 26-30 room guest house, reception area, meeting and dining rooms, offices, and training spaces, creativity and conference spaces, gallery, spa, treatment, and therapy rooms, and worship and prayer rooms. The total expected cost of the project is $17.5 million.
The city rezoned the area in 2019. A Conditional Use Permit for Well House Ministry was issued in February 2020 to use the property as a religious institution, a health and medical institution, and a lodging or boarding house. Two years later, the city revoked the latter two portions of the permitting due to Well House Ministry’s inability to implement them.
Well House Ministry has now offered to sell the property to the city. The 2023 estimated market value of the property is $550,900.
While the council took no action regarding the closed meeting session, the city released a summary. The council discussed the current assessed value of the property, unknown environmental issues, proposed demolition costs, and potential uses. The council made no decisions, offers, or actions. “Well, House Ministry should move forward on the plans for marketing/selling the property as they wish. The Economic Development Authority/Council may discuss the issue further if/when more information is available,” read the summary statement.
In other news, the council briefly discussed the unfortunate departure of Jen Hengel as Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Coordinator. Hengel has served in the role since June 2014 and has significantly impacted the community through her work. The Chamber will seek a new coordinator.
The Rushford Fire Department did purchase a used vehicle to serve as the Chief’s Rescue Rig, as detailed at the last meeting. The vehicle met expectations, as authorized, and is undergoing inspection underway. The truck will arrive by Rushford Days, the third weekend in July.
During reports, the city presented further information regarding PFAS (Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) litigation against 3M Company AFFF (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Concentrates) water contamination. The PFAS chemicals are in the surfactants in the foam used in liquid fire suppression.
“We have no issues, but I keep getting updates,” noted City Clerk Kathy Zacher. “Someone’s doing a lot of work on behalf of Minnesota’s small cities.”
The location of the city/school district trail west of Nannestad Lane/Eiken Drive is marked out. Zacher clarified that the excavation area is not the trail’s final width.
A BK5K Youth Fund donation from the Winona Community Foundation for $5,000 was approved. The funding is for purchasing new poles and basketball hoops for Creekside Park. Also approved was a $1,107 donation from the R-P Booster Club for the pole and hoop installation.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, July 10, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.