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Rushford will rebuild liquor store in same location

Fri, Nov 30th, 2007
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - In the aftermath of August's flood, the city of Rushford has had to make many decisions quickly that will impact the residents for years to come. Last Thursday, the city council took up the issue of what to do with public properties damaged in the flood.

There is an urgency to the matter because FEMA is trying to wrap up its business in town and needs project worksheets for a number of the properties, according to Windy Block, city administrator.

The three properties in question are the Municipal Liquor store, the Ellen Tenborg community center, and the former Dreamin' Horses building that the city bought to use as an incubator business.

Block informed the council that normal procedure for FEMA is to grant funds for damaged public buildings so that they might be restored to their pre-flood condition. But in the case of the extensive damage in Rushford, FEMA is willing to offer replacement assistance to build brand new if the amount needed to repair the structure exceeds fifty percent of the cost to replace it.

In the case of the liquor store, FEMA estimates repair costs to be $689,456, and outright replacement costs to be $837, 394; thus, the city would have the option to take the higher dollar amount and build a new building as long as it is the same "footprint" as the old and has the same function (liquor sales).

The cost to repair the Tenborg Center is also more than fifty percent of replacement, so again the city has the option to take up to $593,382 in replacement assistance rather than $348,558 to simply repair the existing structure.

In the case of the former Dreamin' Horses, repair costs are far below fifty percent of replacement cost, thus the only option is to accept the repair assistance of $393,513.

The rules and regulations are, of course, complicated, and nobody has past experience with floods and disaster assistance to draw on. Yet the manager, mayor Les Ladewig and council members tried to work their way through all the possibilities.

Block said that it was possible to move an entity to a new location with no penalty, as long as the building still had the same "footprint" in its new location and the same function. However, if the city would decide to change the function of a building, say turn the liquor store into a community center, there would be a penalty. The funds available for the project would be 90% of the repair cost (not replacement cost).

Previous to the flood, the city applied for and received a Redevelopment Grant for the block that includes the former location of Woxland's. Unofficially, the idea of using the area for a new library has circulated.

Council member Laura Deering asked the group to consider the possibility of taking the 90% of the liquor store repair assistance, technically changing the function of the liquor store to either a community center or library, and moving it to the downtown redevelopment block.

Deering had calculated that this plan would bring an additional $600,000 to a new library project. For others in the room, the plan left the fate of the liquor store too uncertain, even though Deering suggested the liquor store could be relocated and perhaps the city could rent space for it.

"Where would the money come for that? (relocating the liquor store) asked city clerk Kathy Zacher.

Mayor Ladewig said he could understand Deering's plan, but by his way of thinking, her solution would leave over $200,000 of government assistance on the table-meaning the additional money that could have been used to rebuild the liquor store in its current location.

Both council member Nancy Benson and Block said that they'd understood the issue of whether to have a liquor store was settled at last month's meeting when the council voted unanimously to continue in the liquor business. But Deering maintained that all of the current financial information had not been available at that time.

According to Zacher, the liquor store puts at least $30,000 back into the city's general fund each year.

After much hesitation, the group finally moved forward when council member Herb Highum made a motion to rebuild the liquor store in its current location. Benson seconded the motion, stating that she did so "on the basis of what the liquor store has given back to the community in the past."

"It's a valuable asset," she concluded. "It serves a segment of our community. Not everyone uses it, just like not everyone uses a community center."

Next the council voted to go the route of replacement for the Tenborg Center and move it to the redevelopment grant block. They then approved the repair assistance for the former Dreamin' Horses building, which is part of the redevelopment block.

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