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Rushford prepares to lease former community center


By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 16th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Government

By Kirsten Zoellner

Finally, the long wait to see the vacant community center may be at an end. Approved in November of 2009, the ground was broken for the center that December, and the center was partially constructed in 2010 by F&L Development. A lengthy process followed that ultimately led the city to abandon its plans with the developer in July of 2011, which left the center partially finished and vacant. Several parties have considered the building, but it appears that the city may have found a way to finish the building and lease it to a local business.

At the Monday, August 12 council meeting, the city entered into an agreement with Kane Architect & Schwab Construction for $7,350, plus expenses, to create cost estimates to convert the former community center building into office headquarters for Farmers Co-op Elevator. Construction improvements will be financed by a Lease Revenue Note. An agreement will be reached with Farmers Co-op Elevator regarding a lease agreement

“Not all the details are done. This is just the next step in the process before we get it ready to bid,” said City Administrator Steve Sarvi. “We’ve had several discussions about it and they were the first to get architect drawings to us.”

The building’s size and location are a good fit for the company, which is headquartered in Rushford, Minn. but has branches in Caledonia, Minn., Houston, Minn., and Spring Grove, Minn. “The last couple of years we’ve consolidated into one office. We’ve added staff. If we continue to grow, we’re going to run short of space,” noted Todd Rosvold, Farmers Co-op Elevator Manager. “This looked like an opportunity and our board was very open to using the community center. Rushford is where the co-op was founded and we’d like to stay here.”

The city will transfer the building to the Economic Development Authority (EDA) for financing reasons and to relieve council of having to oversee day to day items. Funding for the project will come from the EDA. Construction drawings will be finalized so work can be properly bid out with a guarantee not to exceed price. From there, lease pricing will be determined. If all goes as planned, ribbon cutting could be as early as April.

“The cost will be captured back, while finishing a structure the co-op wants at price we can all afford,” added Sarvi. “Our intention is to capture all costs to date, plus the new costs, over time.”

The community center excitement falls at a good time for the council, as preparations and planning for the 2014 budget are underway. Administrator Sarvi, Mayor Hallum, and Councilor Roger Colbenson have been in preliminary discussions with other city staff to work out a preliminary target. It was noted that the city is considering a 2.02 percent increase in the levy, partially to add a modest increase in the city’s general fund. Several big ticket items are headed down the pipe at the city, including the massive Highway 43 project, other possible street work, and continued maintenance of the levee system.

“We’re not putting money aside for future levee work,” noted Public Works Director Jeff Copley. “The project is not going away. The state is going to keep shoving it down our throats whether we have the money or not, so we should be putting money aside and stay on top of it.”

“The Corps contractor didn’t finish and now they’re putting it on us,” added Sarvi. “We think, ‘It’s yours to fix and you said you would. It’s your problem, not ours.’ There’s a lot of things on that list to do that we feel they should have to contribute. This is always going to be a constant struggle for the community. We’re more than willing to be proactive.”

Also budgeted for are updates to the comprehensive plan, work done by the Parks, Trails, and Trees Board, and a full-time public works position, should the council approve it.

In other news, the city has formally adopted an ordinance to prohibit the feeding of deer within city limits. The new ordinance will be published as soon as possible. The police department will enforce the ordinance, contacting violators and trying to correct the situation. Failure to heed the warning will lead to issuance of a citation, a misdemeanor. The city will try the ordinance for one year, then reevaluate whether or not there has been any improvement. For now, the city believes that it’s the simplest, least invasive method.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, August 26, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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