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BE votes to sell Three Sisters

By Staff | Jun 10, 2018

Blue Earth city administrator Tim Ibisch inspects one of the Three Sisters buildings where demolition work has included removing several layers of flooring from past years.

The Blue Earth City Council made a decision last Monday night that they would agree to sell the buildings in downtown Blue Earth known as the Three Sisters for considerably less than the market value of the buildings.

However, they did not make any decision as to just who they would sell those buildings to. But, they did come closer to that decision.

During a public hearing, which was held as part of the regular meeting last Monday night, the council discussed the possibility of selling the buildings below market value.

“We need to hold this hearing according to state statute,” city attorney David Frundt said. “Because the council is proposing to sell the buildings below their estimated value.”

City administrator Tim Ibisch said the buildings have a taxable market value of $73,000, which is around $50,000 for the south building and $11,000 for each of the other two.

“The city also has about $66,000 in costs that they have put into the buildings at this time,” Ibisch said.

Several citizens voiced opinions about the sale of the buildings, and about public dollars being spent on them.

Jim Beattie of Blue Earth asked if there were any other offers on the table for the Three Sisters and the answer from city staff was that there were no firm purchase offers at this time. However, the Economic Development Authority was expected to discuss an actual purchase price at their next meeting.

Gary Meyer said he felt that a price on the buildings should be high enough and sell for enough that there would be no public money needed to subsidize the sale.

“We expect to make some of the money we have in it back when we start to collect taxes on the buildings,” councilman Glenn Gaylord said. However, Blue Earth businesswoman Michelle Hard asked if any taxes would be collected if the building owner was a non-profit.

“The owner can be a non-profit, but any part of the building that is used for a business that produces a profit can be taxed,” city attorney Frundt explained.

Gaylord said he understood it could cost the city $300,000 to tear down the buildings if that became necessary.

“I look at it like this, what should we do with this $300,000,” he asked. “Use it to tear them down, or use it to invest into our town? I think we should invest it.”

Beattie agreed, and said the last thing Blue Earth needed was another downtown empty lot turned into a park.

“It will start to look like a hillbilly’s teeth, with empty spaces everywhere,” he said. “I think we need to do everything we can within the law to make this project work.”

After the public hearing the council voted unanimously to sell the buildings below their value, in order to facilitate something positive happening to them.

The council made it clear that the motion did not mean the buildings would be sold to a current developer, Connect the Grey, which has made a proposal to the city.

But, later in the meeting, the council discussed a possible timeline of a sale to Connect the Grey. That would include setting a selling price and terms at the next Blue Earth Economic Development Authority meeting, approval by the city of the proposal and possible sale in July, with final closing of the sale at the Aug. 7 council meeting.

The council also agreed to give Connect the Grey another 90 days of time to continue to work on their project proposal.

Ibisch explained after the meeting that the Connect the Grey group had been given the 90 day extended period to come up with a detailed plan on just how they would come up with at least $1 million of their projected investment in the project. Ibisch also confirmed that there is at least one other interested party in the buildings who has recently inspected the Three Sisters.

In other business at the meeting which was held at the Ag Center to accommodate an anticipated number of the public attending the meeting, the council:

Heard the 2017 Blue Earth Light & Water Audit during their work session before the regular meeting.

The audit report noted overall Blue Earth Light & Water is doing well, however the water department showed a loss, while the electrical department showed a profit.

Manager Tim Stoner acknowledged the water rates would be seeing an increase of 2 to 4 percent over the next five years.

Heard an update from the city engineer on all the various construction projects in the city. Those include the new Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center/Green Giant Museum, the northwest housing development, the 13th and Moore streets project and the new Public Works Department building.

Learned the annual “Spring Sweep” had been completed by the Blue Earth Police Department for violations of city ordinances. Ibisch also noted that around 50 letters had been sent out, mainly concerning lawns needing to be mowed.

Learned the city had received two sealed bids for purchase of a lot located at the corner of Ninth and Nicollet streets, where the city had demolished a house.

The council accepted the higher bid of $2,550 for the lot. Both bids came from neighbors to the lot.