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EDA gets nod to take step toward Root River property acquisitions

Fri, Dec 21st, 2012
Posted in All Government

Cathy Enerson, EDA, outlined steps taken so far toward land acquisition and clean up of dilapidated properties along the Root River at the city council’s December 18 meeting. Buildable properties near the trail head location could then be used either for residential building sites or as a possible permanent site for the National Trout Center (NTC).

The city and the DNR each already own some of the lots in the area. Enerson described a “perfect storm” of conditions where all property owners are lined up and willing to sell. She detailed preliminary work for possible 2013 acquisitions. The purchase of the Preston POP bulkhead would be somewhat of a risk because of the unknowns as to what would be necessary for cleanup.

The EDA has worked to get land owner approval to purchase sites at the trail head. Dan Christianson has recently been appointed to handle the estate, which includes POP. He acknowledged that it is his job to maximize values for the heirs. Enerson said the city would need to become the POP owner to enter into a voluntary environmental cleanup program. The EDA 2013 budget request includes funding for the purchase of the POP property and for tank removal. The EDA plans to pursue cleanup and redevelopment grants.

Other sites discussed include the Harmony Agri site and the current NAPA property. Enerson suggested if the city purchased the NAPA site, they could lease it for a time for a revenue source. One possibility would be to lease it to the NTC.

The EDA estimates total costs including the purchase of the three properties, including demolition and tank removal could come to about $350,000.

City ownership of a property is necessary to enter into a voluntary clean up program, to apply for brownfield funding, and to apply for DEED redevelopment and demolition programs.

The goal is to obtain the properties, clean up the area, to draw attraction to the downtown, and to control water from backing up into the downtown business district.

President of the EDA Chuck Aug summed it up as two main projects. Near the trail head where the tank is there is an interested developer and the NTC is looking for a permanent site which could possibly be at the POP and Harmony Agri sites. Aug insisted it is now the time to make the commitment to some of these landowners. It is time to see if the city is willing to pursue and buy some of the properties or there is no point in going forward. Aug ended his remarks saying the EDA has done its job, now it is time for the city to make a commitment.

Mayor Kurt Reicks stated the properties have to be bought, cleaned up and redeveloped. It needs to be done to improve the city. Reicks said we have to decide if we should direct our staff to pursue financial advisement on how to do it. Councilmen Dave Harrison and Charles Sparks seemed to agree. Councilman Robert Maust said he was concerned about brownfield.

No vote was taken, but there was enough of a consensus to move forward.

Other Business In Brief

•A resolution approving the levy collectible in 2013 as presented was adopted. The total levy for 2013 will be $672,725; a 2.98 percent increase. Councilman David Collett had maintained that the NTC should be funded the same as in 2012. He suggested the $8,500 increase that was in the budget as presented should be removed. Mayor Reicks remarked that the city needs to help the NTC for a time until they can get self sufficient. A motion to decrease the scheduled funding for the NTC failed.

•The council approved the hire of a new Director of Programs and Operations for the NTC. George Spangler said the NTC’s nominee had both a passion for trout and the region with the training to pursue market development and fund raising. He will be a full-time employee with the same benefits as other city employees. The NTC is now a separate 501c3 organization, but the director is technically an employee of the EDA/city. City Administrator Joe Hoffman noted this is a temporary arrangement for insurance and accounting purposes.

•A resolution was adopted accepting eighty-eight donations to the city totaling $24,125.41. The largest donation of $15,000 from the Fire Relief Association is intended to be used toward a fire truck and equipment. Half of the donations were for $25 or less.

•Approval was given for the CEDA EDA Service Contract for 2013. The only change in the contract from the preceding year is a two percent increase from 2012 or a total of $25,996. The Public Utilities contributes one-third with the EDA/city’s two-thirds share equaling $17,331.

•The NTC has acquired its tax exempt status. It will now do its own accounting instead of being routed through the city. A transfer of a $500 donation intended for the NTC was approved.

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