Bill Eckles, president and CEO of Bevcomm, had quite a surprise for his fellow Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA) board members at their last meeting.
"Bevcomm would like to donate all of the Ag Center to the EDA," Eckles said. "At no cost."
Eckles said he had been on the EDA board for 10 or 11 years and they have not always "had the resources to do anything."
"The Ag Center is a valuable asset," Eckles said. "It generates about $50,000 in cash (profit) each year. This is money the EDA can use for projects that they want to do."
Eckles told the board they would own the Ag Center "free and clear from the get go." But he did say there could be some issues. For one thing, it would put the EDA in the landlord business.
The EDA board members felt the offer was certainly worth investigating, but also saw some issues, including loss of the property tax revenue from the Ag Center, managing the property and upkeep expenses.
They decided to send the proposal to the City Council for further investigation, as the council would have to make the final decision.
Last Thursday the council members toured the Ag Center with Bevcomm property manager Chris Evert.
"The structure is actually four separate parcels," Evert said. "The city already owns one of the sections, which houses Little Giants Child Care Center."
Bevcomm had previously donated that section to the city about four or five years ago, he added.
The other three units house 16 renters; business and government offices, some retail and some medical offices.
Built in the 1960s and once known as the Town and Country Plaza, the facility housed stores such as Red Owl grocery, Hardware Hank and Pamida.
"Bevcomm purchased it in about 1993 and remodeled it, put on the enclosed walkway to tie it all together," Evert said. "It was not being utilized and we wanted to make it something usable."
Bevcomm even moved their corporate offices to the Ag Center for a while.
Evert said they had not had an appraisal done, but the estimated market value on the tax statements was over $1 million, he thought.
Councilman Glenn Gaylord wondered about any major expenses, such as replacing the entire roof or parking lot, and said more investigation needed to be done.
"A major item like the roof could be a deal breaker," he said.
The council will meet this Monday night, July 28, in a special meeting called solely to discuss the Bevcomm offer of gifting the Ag Center to the city.
Eckles had told the EDA board he would like to have the deal completed by the end of the year, for tax purposes. The EDA said they would try to have an answer at their next meeting, which is set for Aug. 14.