County, FSA agree on lease extension in Baldwin ag center
St. Croix County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) have come to an agreement on a lease extension through 2014 for space in the St. Croix County Agriculture Service and Education Center in Baldwin, according to an email sent by County Administrator Pat Thompson to members of the County Board of Supervisors sent on Tuesday afternoon.
According to the email, the FSA also agreed to an increase to $18 per square foot in the rental rate retroactively effective June 1. The rate is based on a 3 percent annual increase to the 2002 rate of $13.06 per square foot, and the rate will continue to adjust annually by the same percentage.
"I'm pleased with this outcome as another demonstration of interagency cooperation," Thompson wrote in his email.
St. Croix County FSA executive director Bob Forrest told the New Richmond News on Thursday afternoon that he could not verify whether the lease had been extended.
"I have no knowledge of that yet," Forrest said. "I have heard some rumors floating around, but nothing has officially come through my computer."
Daryl Standafer, chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, confirmed the authenticity of the email on Thursday afternoon.
"I have obviously been involved in the conversations with FSA in trying to bring this to a resolution," Standafer said. "I think this is a good resolution. I'm pleased that we've reached an agreement with the FSA to stay in the ag center through the end of 2014."
"In January of this year, they proposed extending the lease, which originated in 1997 and expired in 2010, they proposed extending the lease backdated to 2010 through December 2014," Standafer said. "So after a lot of back and forth, we've really done what they wanted to do back in Jaunuary of '13."
New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne, who also serves as the County Board Supervisor for Disrict 12 representing New Richmond and part of Star Prairie, was also pleased about the agreement.
"I'm glad we have an agreement. I'm glad we're moving forward, and we can move on to other issues," Horne said.
Without a lease in place, the county -- faced with the prospect of a half-empty building -- began exploring the option of selling the building and moving several services to other county buildings in New Richmond and Hudson. In recent weeks, the agriculutral community in St. Croix County, which is located mostly east of Highway 65, began voicing its opposition to the possibility of the building being sold.