Some oppose plan to sell ARCC

A "for sale" sign has been posted for the Akeley Regional Community Center (ARCC), the $355,000 listing price drawing criticism from Frank Lamb at this week's council meeting.

A "for sale" sign has been posted for the Akeley Regional Community Center (ARCC), the $355,000 listing price drawing criticism from Frank Lamb at this week's council meeting.

He questioned the non-profit organization exponentially increasing the price of the former school building. ARCC, spearheaded by Chris Conger, paid the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District $3 for the building and grounds three years ago.

"It should be sold for $3 if it's sold. They have a moral and ethical obligation to taxpayers," Lamb said, referring to principal board members Conger, Barry Munson and John Steward.

Akeley residents have been funding the building since the 1920s, Lamb said.

Conger had informed the council in May of his intentions to step away from his role at the ARCC.


Since the listing of the building, he said he's facing "hostility in the community," his decision creating a "volatile situation.

"Our names are on the title," Conger said "We're at risk." ARCC board members had acquired a loan for an undisclosed amount to fund fuel bills.

Operating costs drove the decision, Steward said.

Income for the ARCC is derived from the clothing store, the city office rent and the Crow Wing Community Church, which Conger serves as pastor. But the revenue is insufficient to cover fuel costs and general maintenance.

"It's been a challenge," Steward said. "We have been entrusted with the future of the school and will be working for the best solution," he said. "A lot of dialogue is needed. If the building is sold, we will go through a process to utilize the funds for the good of the community."

Conger reiterated the position. "We are not pocketing the money and leaving town," Conger said. Any proceeds from a sale would be rolled into a non-profit fund to continue projects in Akeley, he said.

Conger indicated the board is seeking another nonprofit organization to take the reins or possibly a developer for a housing or manufacturing project.

The price, Conger said, had been based on the sale of the Park Rapids Middle School, which was purchased in October 2003 for $118,250. Since then, he noted, portions of the building have been sold or are on the market, raising the overall value appreciably.


The estimated market value of the ARCC in 2006 is $95,800, according to the assessor's office.

Munson had suggested Conger recuse himself from the matter, citing "vitriolic hatred" on the part of the community over the decision to put the building on the market.

Munson estimated Conger has spent thousands of hours improving or maintaining the building, with neither "accolades nor compensation.

"God gives us gifts," Munson said. "We must be a steward of that gift. Is mopping the floor, hauling wood the answer? Clearly no," he said of the duties assumed by Conger, pastor to two congregations, husband and dad.

"We have tried to get people to take ownership," Munson said. "The community center didn't pan out because we didn't get help."

Akeley mayor Gary Hendricks said city finances preclude the purchase of the building - "or we'd have done it three years ago for $3."

After Conger implied he was giving the city "six months' notice," Hendricks has begun to seek funding options for the possible construction of office space, Rural Development a possible source. The city pays $300 per month half the year, $450 per month when the mercury dips.

Eric Wolff of Coldwell Banker Clack & Dennis Real Estate said interest has been shown in the listing, due to the square footage.


"We need to find someone with a vision to put it to use," Wolff said. "It has a lot of possibilities."

"We knew it was a challenge going in; this is not a surprise," Steward said. "The town needs to decide where they want to go, how the ARCC fits into the future vision of the town.

"Give us a gauge of options," he said. "We're open to suggestions. It will come together, but we have to be patient."

"I have prepared for this with three months of prayer," Conger said. "I won't respond with anger."

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