homepage logo

What to do with a former bank?

By Staff | Jul 29, 2018

It was not on their regular schedule, but due to some time-sensitive topics, the Wells City Council decided to meet for the second time this month.

The council came together at 5 p.m. on July 23, for a work session to discuss the Paragon Bank building’s air conditioning, the USC School track and football field property, and the Wells Municipal Liquor Store.

After about an hour of conversation, the Council came together for their regular meeting. With five topics to discuss on their agenda, the Wells City Council went right to work on talking about their plans for the Paragon Bank building.

In the work session, the council, with Whitney Harig absent from the meeting, spoke of price bids for the replacement of the air conditioning system. With one bid quite lower than the others, questions rose as to whether or not the low bid was an incomplete bid.

Parts included in the bids for the AC unit mentioned an a-coil, something the council understood had leaks in the past and needed replacing, but according to a representative from Honeywell, who placed the bid, the costly a-coil did not need replacing, but the parts around it did. The council wondered if a pressure test was necessary to see which parts truly needed replacing.

In their regular meeting, John Herman made a formal motion to place dehumidifiers in the Paragon Bank building and wait until next year for newer bid prices on the AC?unit.

“We aren’t really sure as to what we are going to do with it at this point, and it is almost the end of the summer,” said Herman.

The rest of the council agreed. It was moved and passed to wait until February or March of 2019 to take a look into the air conditioning again, with ample time to discuss the intentions the council has with the building.

City administrator CJ Holl created a list of two options for the council: selling the Paragon Bank building or keeping it. Possible uses for the building, if the city were to keep it, included a new City Hall destination, with ideas of expanding the Wells Flame Theater lobby and the Wells Police Station if City Hall were to be moved across the street. There was also discussion of allowing other businesses in as well as other city committees including the Wells EDA, Wells Library, and Wells Chamber of Commerce.

The challenges with keeping the building included the cost of continuing to own it and keeping it off the tax rolls as well as costs involved to remodel and move the City Hall, which includes costs of remodeling the current City Hall space. The positives? Maintaining control of the building, flexibility to expand the theater and police department, affordable multi-tenant space, and guarantee that the city would maintain the property well.

As for selling potential, talk of new businesses or current businesses in need of expanding their office space was the most prominent possibility. There was also hope from the council that perhaps a more aggressive approach to listing the property with realtors could be discussed in the future.

Challenges here included maintaining the building until it was sold, as well as cost of advertising, buyer expenses, and the fact that People’s State Bank still have a number of items still housed within the building. As for the positives, this would allow the building to get back on the property tax rolls, as well as recuperation of lost expenses, and of course, the potential to have a new business in the city of Wells.

But, all of those decisions will have to wait until spring.

In other conversations, the council approved the 2018 state primary and general election judges in one swift motion.

The council then moved on to discuss the continual delays on the city’s three main construction projects; one of which is approaching a year-long delay the Wells Business Park.

The original completion date of the park was set for October of 2017, and a new completion date was set for June of 2018 when a late winter and soggy spring came into the mix of delays. But now, that completion date has come and gone, as well.

Though city engineer Travis Winter was unavailable, he did send a representative from Bolton & Menk to talk about why these projects have gone weeks and months over their proposed completion dates.

“There were times they could have been more efficient,” says Bolton &?Menk representative Ben Rosol, onsite project manager for the Wells street projects. “But we certainly have a good, solid street built there now. Concrete curb will be going in later this week, along with asphalt. They hope to have everything done by Aug. 10.”

“They screwed around late last fall,” said councilwoman Crystal Dulas. “I’m not impressed and I’d be interested in pursuing liquidated damages for waiting.”

“We can certainly do that, but I think it would be best to wait until Travis is back with us,” said Holl.

“Sixth Street just finished with storm sewer, and we start with water main connections and by Wednesday, we will be finished with the main services for that project,” said Rosol. “Third street crew is not helping their case much by not working on days like today. They’ve received the okay to start with their compaction process and we are anticipating that will take about a week.”

Rosol says the hope is that everything will be done by early to mid-September.

“There’s no excuse for the delay, but they’re going to have to get moving,” added Rosol.

And with Kernel Days just around the corner, the council was reasonably worried about these delays.

After hearing from the street projects, the council made a motion to go into closed session regarding Wells vs. Kevin and Connie Martin, along with a request from Mike Weber to hook up his newly attained property to the city’s sewer and water systems. According to city attorney David Frundt, no action was taken, and Frundt shared he would continue with the compliance plan agreement for the Martin case “as discussed,” which became a formal motion in the City Council meeting and was passed.

The council also:

Received news the Bidne building has been signed over to the city and processes will be continued to complete that agreement.

Made a motion to hire Flaherty and Hood with regards to doing a job classification and compensation study for the city of Wells. According to Holl, the city did not comply with pay equity standards for the state of Minnesota. This company would do a study to lay out a compensation grid and help meet pay equity standards. This became a motion on the council floor and passed. Councilwoman Dulas voted against the study presumably due to the $10,000 cost to the city.

The next regular meeting for the Wells City Council will be held Monday, Aug. 13, at 5 p.m. in the Wells Community Center.