City Council votes to buy NMC buildingMonday night, the Hudson City Council authorized Mayor Dean Knudson to sign documents finalizing the city’s purchase of the Nuclear Management Co. property for $2.5 million.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Monday night, the Hudson City Council authorized Mayor Dean Knudson to sign documents finalizing the city’s purchase of the Nuclear Management Co. property for $2.5 million.
The unanimous decision makes it nearly certain that the Hudson Area Joint Library and the Hudson Police Department will be moving into the former corporate headquarters building at 700 First St. in 2010.
The library board must reapprove a slightly modified lease agreement and a minor property title issue has to be resolved before the deal can be finalized.
The board is expected to approve the amended lease when it meets next Monday night.
City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said she expected the title issue to be resolved, too, before the city’s Dec. 16 deadline for informing Xcel Energy, owner of the NMC property, whether it planned to go ahead with the purchase.
The council also approved Knudson’s plan for financing the purchase of the property.
The mayor proposed buying the property with $870,000 from the city’s undesignated fund balance, $630,000 remaining from closure of the tax increment financing district, $200,000 from the parking utility, $200,000 left over from other capital projects, and $600,000 from a 2010 bond issue.
Knudson and the council spent close to an hour discussing the funding and reviewing a report on the condition of the NMC building prepared by Bonestroo, the city’s consulting engineering firm.
The mayor and alderpersons also responded to comments by people who spoke at a public hearing on the purchase immediately before the council meeting.
Two of the seven people who spoke at the public hearing – Curt Weese of North Hudson and Marion Shaw, a library board member from the town of Hudson – were highly critical of the NMC purchase.
Both men wanted the city to hold another referendum on the plan to move the library and police department into the NMC building.
“You can say it’s legal. I say it’s unethical and immoral that we don’t have another vote,” Weese said.
He said voters had already rejected the plan to move the library to the NMC building when they refused to increase taxes for operational costs in a fall 2008 referendum.
“The reason there isn’t a referendum is there isn’t a tax increase,” Knudson said during the council’s discussion of the purchase.
He reiterated previous statements that the current plan is nothing like the $10 million proposal that failed in 2008.
This time, the city police will be sharing the building, he said, and some major expenses that were part of the first proposal have been eliminated. He listed $500,000 for an expanded book collection and remodeling the basement for meeting rooms as examples.
Alderperson Scot O’Malley pointed out that city residents voted overwhelming to purchase the NMC property but rejected having their taxes raised.
“I believe we’re doing exactly what the public instructed us to do,” he said, noting that new plan doesn’t require a tax increase.
Hudson residents Randy Fredrikson (the pastor of First Baptist Church), Priscilla Wyeth and Roy Sjoberg, along with library board member Dan Gavin of the town of St. Joseph, encouraged the council to proceed with the purchase during the public hearing.
Town of Hudson resident Dolly Qualls asked the city to address pedestrian safety issues in the neighborhood of the NMC building.
Alderpersons Lori Bernard and Pam Brokaw were concerned about maintenance issues related to the NMC building reported by Bonestroo, but not enough to vote against the purchase.
Bonestroo engineer Charles Schwartz, speaking for a colleague who didn’t attend the meeting because of the recent death of his father, said the inspector didn’t find any major problems with the building.
“(He) said this is a very good building. He saw no red flags,” Schwartz reported.
The city is also acquiring a smaller office building at 701 Second St. that is located on the NMC property.
Knudson reported that the Hudson/North Hudson cable television station won’t be moving into the smaller building like he had originally hoped for.
Other nonprofit organizations that are tenants of the Hudson Municipal Building are interested in relocating to the 701 Second St. building, Knudson said.
After meeting for three and a half hours (including the half-hour public hearing), the council voted 4-2 against going into closed session to discuss putting the Municipal Building at 911 Fourth St. up for sale.
The council is in agreement that the Fourth Street building should be sold, however.