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Vacant lot purchase divides City Council as 'poor timing'

The city of Park Rapids acquired this lot for $52,000 plus closing costs. It's near the Heartland Trail across from the Red Bridge Inn. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

The Park Rapids City Council agreed to purchase a vacant lot at Beach Street and Washington Avenue near Red Bridge Park.

The city has offered to purchase the property from Darby Diedrich for $52,000 plus closing costs, which are estimated to be approximately $3,000. Funding will come from the Parks funds ($15,000), Real Estate Acquisition Fund ($26,000) and liquor store reserves ($14,000).

City planner Dan Walker said the property is an integral part of three planning documents for the city. It has been identified in the RDG Downtown Plan, the Parks and Trails Plan and the city's Comprehensive Plan as an important piece in the long term planning of Park Rapids.

"It just got included in the DNR's Heartland Trail master plan as an important piece," Walker added. "This isn't coming out of general fund money. The majority of the purchase is coming from park land dedication money that is for acquisition and enhancement of our parks."

The primary interest of the city is to make a public parking lot out of the property. City engineer Jon Olson estimated it would cost between $80,000 and $100,000 to prepare the lot for parking. No money has been set aside for this expense.

Walker said there is a possibility for grant funding through the Department of Natural Resources Legacy funding as well as federal funds.

"It's going to be part of a regional trail system, which gives us access then to the Legacy funds," said Mayor Nancy Carroll. "It's part of this larger picture and future development. It's really a key piece."

Councilman Rod Nordberg also said there is a possibility Park Rapids might be chosen for the 2012 Governor's Fishing Opener. This area would be a key component to that event, he said.

The council was not unanimous in approving the purchase.

"I can't see how you can justify paying this for that lot, said councilman Pat Mikesh. "You're expecting the liquor store to pay for it."

He voted against approving the purchase, stating there is little demand for the parking space, he said, except for the Fourth of July.

In other business, the council:

n Approved purchasing benches, bicycle racks and trash cans for Main Avenue. The items were budgeted in the overall reconstruction project.

Ellis Jones, representing the Downtown Revitalization Committee, found benches offered by SiteScapes that could feature custom themes such as deer, eagle, a cabin scene, ice fishing and more. The total cost is $45,915, which falls within the budget. The schedule calls for installation of benches, racks and trash cans by May 6.

n Directed city clerk Margie Vik to set up a meeting with Henrietta Township officers to discuss the 2012 annexation agreement.

n Had the second reading of an ordinance amending the city's purchasing policy. It includes modifications to the amounts of purchases and who can make purchases for the city of Park Rapids.

n Approved the purchase of a 1995 Ford F350 van from North Memorial Health Care for the Park Rapids Fire Department. The price is $1,500. The van will replace the department's 1987 Chevrolet Suburban that is currently used for a rescue vehicle. The purchase is on the city's Capital Improvement Plan and funds will come from the department's equipment fund.

n Approved releasing a judgment lien against property in the city of Park Rapids.

The city, as a courtesy to Elk Valley, a developer, extended water and sewer service to a parcel outside the city limits. Elk Valley paid a $20,000 down payment, however the cost to the city was approximately $70,190, which the developer was supposed to pay back to the city. The developer did not repay the city, according to a staff report. A negotiated settlement was reached for $44,640 and a judgment lien was entered against Elk Valley.

James Wallace, representing Citizens National Bank, asked the city to release the lien so that the bank could get the home on the market sooner. The property is in foreclosure and will be tied up for several more months if the judgment lien remains in place and the city would likely not receive the lien anyway because it would need to purchase the home first, Wallace said.

n Approved hiring Mitchell Nelson as a full time police officer. Mitchell works part time for the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561