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Rushford purchases 23.5 acres for $699,000


Fri, Aug 17th, 2007
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - Optimistic about the future of Rushford, the city council purchased 23.5 acres of land currently zoned industrial from Wallace Himlie at the August 13 council meeting. Recognizing the land as one of the few remaining undeveloped "chunks" of land in the city, the city agreed to a contract for deed, buying the acreage for $699,000 with the payments of $50,000 in September 2007 and January 1, 2008. After that $42,500 will be paid each January for the next 25 years (at 5 percent interest).

The purchase had been unanimously recommended by the EDA. Gordie Hatleli, EDA's chair and longtime city clerk/administrator, urged the purchase as he related the history of the "up spin" created in the downtown area in the '70s, "Now we should be moving ahead and take a little gamble." Calling it "choice property for the city," Hatleli suggested offering the property to Tri-County Electric in a bid to keep them in the city. Other possibilities for the land include a motel/community center, a manufacturing plant possibly for a company such as PlastiComp, road access to the proposed Sexhauer White Pines Housing, or even a new housing subdivision for the city itself.

The land may have a low spot where water has collected in wet years; however, PWD Jeff Copley commented the area could be opened and drained or filled in. Copley informed the council that the land had been considered and the storm water runoff accommodated in recent city sewer engineering. While a gas line passes through the land, a street could be laid out over it.

Council member Nancy Benson declared the purchase an opportunity to be proactive and progressive. While Council member Larry Johnson voted in favor of the purchase, he questioned whether the budget could cover the purchase, asserting that he did not want taxes raised.

City Administrator Windy Block responded he was confident the city could make the first two payments and urged, "Now is the time to get busy and make something happen." He reminded the council that Himlie had lowered the interest rate by a complete percent.

With the recent purchase of the old TRW west building by PAFT, LLC enabling the return of JMW to Rushford, and fueling the council's optimism, the council was ready and willing not only to help PAFT find another business to rent their extra space (15-20,000 feet), but also to purchase the nearby Himlie land for further industrial development by others.

Jail move

Continuing with their optimistic attitude, the council authorized the signing of a $10,000 contract with Amos Slabaugh to move the historic jailhouse (contingent on the raising of funding) to a piece of land donated by Wallace Himlie adjacent to the old schoolhouse near the depot. Block assured the council that he felt the necessary funds would be raised with a "collaboration of many different pots." Chamber of Commerce member Daryl Thompson who has been working on the project called it "doable" and has reportedly declared, "We'll get it done!"

Moving the jail would make it part of the historical area and clear the way for the possibility of the construction of a new library in its current location. Block reported to the council he had submitted an application for a DEED grant for acquisition and demolition; if the grant were received, it would cover half the cost of the move.

Water treatment plant

hearing

Using a PowerPoint presentation created by Bill Chang and three sample jars of water, Windy Block presented the case for the water treatment plant at the public hearing portion of the meeting. Raising a jar filled with rusty water, Block told the public the plant would get rid of the iron and manganese in the city's water as well as the radium. He then displayed a jar of clear, filtered, water produced by a test trailer at the site. A third jar held a dark, murky water-a sample of contaminates that would be backwashed from the filter and sent to the sewer treatment plant. PWD Copley assured the council this would consist of a relatively small amount of water (19,000 gallons per week) and the chemicals would be unnoticeable in the system.

Copley cautioned that residents would not see immediate improvement in the water quality as he explained that the thick scale built up in the pipes over the years would soften and break loose. "I need complaints so I know where to go and flush it out," Copley urged. He estimated the process could take a year to a year and a half.

Thirty-eight homes in the city are not currently connected to the city water system. City clerk Kathy Zacher suggested encouraging those residents to hook up now before the hook up fee is raised. With more water use, the system would be cleared out sooner, an added benefit.

Block reminded the council the proposed plant would not eliminate all problems. Old, original sand cast pipes are still in the ground; eventually they will need replacing. Calling any other answers "band aid approaches," Block recommended the water treatment plant as "what will truly change the water." Water rates are projected to rise five percent per year to cover the project cost (estimated at $1.5 million).

The council took no action on the treatment plant following the hearing; bid opening for the project will be August 24.

Other business

In other business the council:

• heard Richard Holle's suggestion to bring in a "speed trailer" to check driving speeds in the area and "reschool" drivers to slow down-Mayor Les Ladewig will check into it;

• set Oct. 9 for a public hearing on the wellhead protection.

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