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City Council to take more time on county's lake lots offer

Should the county and city agree to purchase an adjacent lot, the public beach at Deane Point Park could be expanded to the west. The 3-acre park on Fish Hook Lake is off Eagle Point Drive. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)1 / 2
Should the county and city agree to purchase an adjacent lot, the public beach at Deane Point Park could be expanded to the west. The 3-acre park sits at the juncture where Fish Hook River meet Fish Hook Lake. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)2 / 2

At Tuesday's regular Park Rapids City Council meeting, Hubbard County Land Commissioner Mark "Chip" Lohmeier once again addressed the council in reference to the purchase of the three lots located on Fish Hook Lake, owned by the Gulbranson family, adjacent from Deane Point Park.

At a previous council meeting, Lohmeier had approached the council about the possibility of the county purchasing the parcels for $265,000 with the intent to resell them to the city at half price with a five-year payment plan, interest free. At that time, the city declined the offer.

"The county board has asked me to come before you to talk about the county's proposal to purchase the three lots on Fish Hook Lake to ascertain your intentions," Lohmeier said. "We've had numerous requests for funding for our parks money. They want to know where you're at on the project. I don't think they want a definite 'yes' or 'no,' but I think something that I can take back to them as far as what your intentions are."

Councilmember Erika Randall responded, "We've had some discussions about this after the last meeting, and to be honest, it was brought to the council just in the last three months when the property owner came to the council directly and offered the purchase agreement to the council and all of us except for Mayor Mikesh didn't know that this was even an option and this is very new to the council."

"It was brought to the Finance Committee I believe last year and the Finance Committee at that time chose to not present it to the city council. And while the county board may think that we're dragging our feet a little bit and it's just too new to us, to be honest," she added. "And I don't think that the property owner coming to us was necessarily the right way to approach a purchase agreement of this amount. It's not responsible of us to make an agreement to purchase this without budgeting for it."

Randall moved to refer the matter to the Finance Committee so there could be a discussion on the possibility of a purchase and a recommendation can be made to the city council regarding whether or not the funds would be in place to make the purchase possible.

"And we will certainly try to do that in a timely manner," Randall said, adding that she would like the recommendation from the Finance Committee by the first council meeting in August.

Lohmeier explained that he didn't mean to infer that the county board was pushing the city in one direction or the other.

Councilmember Ryan Leckner, who voted against the purchase previously, claimed he was not opposed to the purchase but that he agreed the city needed a recommendation from the Finance Committee after looking at the 2018 budget.

"It's just that we have other requests for these funds and they want to know whether they can release them," Lohmeier said. "We are starting our budget process for next year, too."

The Park Rapids City Council voted unanimously to defer the matter to the Finance Committee to present a recommendation at the first council meeting in August, with councilmember Dick Rutherford absent.

According to Lohmeier, the Hubbard County Board Parks and Recreation Board recommended that the county purchase the lots. There was some discussion at the county board meeting as to why the county would front the purchase for the city. The commissioners have all agreed that the land provides nice swimming beach possibilities and would be excellent for public use.

Commissioner Cal Johannsen implied that the city may not have the money and the purchase wouldn't happen otherwise and would then be resold to another private landowner.

Lohmeier is expected to provide an update during the next Hubbard County Board meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tues., July 18 at the Hubbard County Government Center.