OUR VIEW: Makes sense to sell unneeded property
St. Croix County is exploring the sale of county-owned land near the County Health Center in New Richmond and it's a sale that makes sense for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, as presented, the sale would not jeopardize the future of the county health center. As should be the case, the county plans to maintain enough land for a new county health center/nursing home on the site. That is what voters have asked for in at least two referendum votes and it appears the land sale proposal would assure that enough land is kept by the county.
The county owns about 545 acres. Most of the land is left over from the days when St. Croix County maintained a county farm. That, of course, has been gone for a long time. The county currently leases the land to area farmers.
Some in the county are proposing selling the property and applying much of the proceeds to a new 911 call center and revamping Health and Human Services facilities.
Of course, there are those who oppose the sale. Most of it probably comes from skepticism that the county has expressed a desire to sell the nursing home. We believe, however, that the nursing home issue is essentially settled. Based on voter wishes, the county is likely to be in the nursing home business well into the foreseeable future. Others claim the land will be more valuable in the future when the new Stillwater bridge opens.
In reality, farmland is actually quite valuable today and waiting for the bridge to open may have little impact on the value of the county's property near the nursing home. As they say, a bird in the hand...
There is one detail, however, that needs to be addressed. Under current county policy, proceeds from the sale of county real estate must be applied to debt service. In this case, the county hopes to use the proceeds for various improvements. That can be easily solved with a resolution. If improvements are needed to the 911 center and Health and Human Services facilities, it makes sense to use land sale proceeds to cover the costs.
The sale item was discussed at the December County Board meeting, but delayed until the Jan. 8 meeting. We think it makes sense to sell a large chunk of the unneeded property and make the necessary improvements to other county facilities.