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Dog track offers most for the money

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News River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.hudsonstarobserver.com/sites/all/themes/hudsonstarobserver_theme/images/social_default_image.png
Hudson Star Observer
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Dog track offers most for the money
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Hudson School District says the best place for a new secondary school is the former St. Croix Meadows dog track. That's the conclusion contained in a 63-page report to the City of Hudson Plan Commission delivered last week.

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The report addresses a series of questions the commission had back in April about the district's request to rezone the dog track from commercial to public use. They also asked the district to compare the dog track to other properties for the school that the school board had previously dismissed as suitable, primarily based on size and location. The commission also wanted the district to address the effect taking the dog track off the property tax rolls would have.

The report states that as compared to property at Carmichael and Vine streets in Hudson, 100 acres owned by the district on County UU in Hudson Township and on a property south of River Crest Elementary in Troy Township, the dog track has the most financial advantages.

The purchase price of the dog track, $8.25 million, was approved by voters in an April referendum. While it is the most expensive of the properties upfront, that cost is offset by the existing infrastructure that could be repurposed for school construction. That infrastructure includes a 153,000 square-foot building (about 90,000 square feet that could be gutted and reused), utilities and roads. While there is mold in the building, the district has already consulted with a specialist who says that problem can be fixed.

The report indicates that when the infrastructure savings are taken into consideration, the adjusted cost of the dog track would be between $1 million and $3.5 million.

While the district already owns the property at County UU, the report says that to prepare the property as a school site and provide sewer and water and other infrastructure, the adjusted cost to use that property for a school would be between $3.7 million and $4.2 million.

The same costs would impact the other two properties. In Troy, the cost of the land is estimated at $5.8 million with adjusted costs raising that to $7 million to $ 9 million. The price tag on the land at Carmichael and Vine is estimated at $3 million with adjusted costs there of $6 million to $8 million.

The report makes the case that the size and location of the St. Croix Meadows property makes it the best site. The school board criteria set the minimum number of acres for a new school at 65 and both the property at Vine and Carmichael (50 buildable acres) and on County UU (60 buildable acres) are too small. The Troy property is the only one of the alternative locations that is big enough with 70 acres. The property also would likely require annexation by the city as well as road construction along with another referendum to purchase the property.

The County UU property could also require annexation by the City of Hudson and/or the extension of city sewer and water to the site as well as road improvements.

To address the issue of lost tax revenue from the dog track if it is rezoned, the district and the dogtrack owners brought together a group of experts to analyze that concern. They reported that the site is "a single-use functionally obsolete property that is too expensive to develop." They also said that the consensus of real estate brokers familiar with the Hudson market said the property would not work well for retail or office uses because "it was too far off the beaten path."

The district will make their presentation of the report at the plan commission meeting on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. in City Hall and to the council on Sept. 17. The plan commission is expected to make their recommendation to the council at the Sept. 17 meeting.

The complete report is available on the district's website at www.hudson.k12.wi.us. For more information contact the Hudson School District at (715)377-3700.

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Meg Heaton
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
(715) 808-8604
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