Castle Dale hopes to purchase property for new city hall on Main Street
The Main topic of discussion at the September city council public hearing for Castle Dale was the acquisition of property for a new city hall building. At the opening of the public hearing, Mayor Neal Peacock said the current city hall has problems. It is wearing out. It's very expensive to heat and to cool. There are thousands of dollars in repairs needed for the building. The plan the city has been considering is to partner with the Emery Water Conservancy District and the Castle Valley Special Service District in building an office that would house all three entities. The space they are considering is on Main Street on property currently owned by the Swensons and David Platt. The water conservancy district already owns the vacant lot on that block. The city has approached the land owners about purchasing their property. Peacock said a city hall on Main Street would be more convenient. The building would be much smaller and more cost effective to heat and cool. "The plan would be to take the pioneer museum and move it downstairs into the city hall," said Mayor Peacock.
It was mentioned the county would take over the cost of the pioneer museum and the city would lease the building to the county for use by the pioneer museum. The question Mayor Peacock said is what can the city afford to pay to purchase the properties on Main Street. The city has had the properties appraised and made offers on the property. The city could declare eminent domain and pay fair market value for the properties. If eminent domain is declared then the case would be filed in court and a judge would decide the fair market value of the property. Castle Dale City has offered double the appraised value to two different landowners.
The land being considered is on Main Street from Dr. Sanders office north to the old Co-op building. It does not include the Co-op building or the TC West building on the corner.
Property owner Bonnie Swenson spoke at the hearing, she said she has heard a lot of rumors including one in March of this year that said everyone on the block had agreed to sell and no one had even talked to the Swensons at that point. Six weeks later Mayor Peacock asked if they would be interested in selling. Swenson asked why the city didn't tear down the current city hall and rebuild a new one on this property.
Mayor Peacock said that is a possibility, but when there is talk of tearing down that building a lot of people who went to school there become upset. They have an emotional tie to the building and the city hall would be displaced during the tear down and construction of a new building. Mayor Peacock said if they build a new city hall in conjunction with the other entities they can apply for a CIB grant/loan, currently the CIB is more favorable to projects that involve more than one entity working together. The conservancy district already has some property on Main Street and Mayor Peacock said the city moving down there seemed to make more sense.
Swenson said the size of the Huntington City Hall and Ferron would fit where the pool building is now, if that building is torn down. She said there is also vacant property by Magnuson Lumber and there is the Tracy Jeffs property on Main Street.
Mayor Peacock said the city building will be a one level building and they are trying to keep costs down by partnering with these other entities. The city hall will also need room for parking off Main Street and the property being considered would provide that extra space for parking.
Swenson wondered if the other two entities would pay rent to Castle Dale, but Mayor Peacock said they would all be joint owners.
Swenson said there has been fear in the community that the city would condemn property in the city. The other two property owners along that block the Co-op building and TC West have been concerned about the status of property along there and what the city intends to do or not to do with these properties.
Mayor Peacock said the city feels they are looking at the least expensive option for the city. The city will not go ahead with any plans or funding attempts until they own the property.
Council member Julie Pizzuto said the beautification committee feels like Main Street could be improved with these vacant buildings gone and a new city building in their place.
Swenson said they feel like they have been rushed. The threat of eminent domain has made them feel bullied and confused. She said she had a business on Main Street for 11 years. She invested a lot of money in those buildings making improvements. She invested a lot of time and money into her business and property. Mayor Peacock said he apologizes for any confusion on the matter. "I apologize you haven't had more time," said the mayor.
Mayor Peacock said he had a letter from the Swenson's attorney that said there are people who want to rent those buildings. He wondered how ready for business they are. Swenson said there would be a need for some improvements, but nothing costly.
David Platt from Price is the owner of the property at 50 East Main. He said he thinks Castle Dale City does deserve a new city building. But, he doesn't want to liquidate his building without getting out of it at least what he paid for it. In March of 2010 he paid $20,000. He said he is seeking fair compensation, but doesn't seek any profit. He was planning on putting a business on the property, but has held off until the property was paid off. The building would need heat before a business could open there because he would want natural gas put in. He will have the property paid off in March 2013.
Curtis Steele is the property owner that sold the property to Platt. He said in the 1960s the property was bought from Utah Power for $46,000. It was purchased with the intent to open an office supply store. The property was sold once for $29,000 and that didn't work out and then sold again to Platt for $20,000 and he has one payment left. Steele said he had a property appraised in Ferron that is similar and it appraised for $41,000. It's hard to get appraisals on these properties because there aren't many comparable properties in the area said Steele. They said they had been told the property alone on Main Street Castle Dale would be worth approximately $20,900.
Roger Swenson wondered why the council was interested in the rentability of the properties. Mayor Peacock said if there are people interested in locating a business there, they would like to know.
Roger Swenson wondered if it would make a difference.
Pizzuto said if they could rent out the property for business would there be any problems with lead or asbestos. Roger Swenson said he didn't foresee any problems along those lines. He wondered if the city has a start date for when they would like to start the new city hall project.
Mayor Peacock said as soon as they purchase the land they can get started. In the next six-eight months would be a realistic time frame. An application submitted to CIB by February could receive funding by April.
Roger Swenson asked what sources of funding are available for the project. Mayor Peacock said the city has budget money its been saving for the purchase of the property. The money for the building would come from a CIB grant/30 year low or no interest loan. The savings on the utility bills could help with the building payment.
Roger Swenson wondered if there was an approximate cost for the project. Mayor Peacock couldn't give a cost yet because they aren't that far along in the project. No one has wanted to talk cost of building until the land was secured. It could be approximately $1.2 million-1.5 million and as much as $2 million, but these are just estimates and the costs will be shared with the other two entities if they choose to join the project.
Roger Swenson asked if the city takes their property will they have enough money to finish the new city building. Mayor Peacock said the money for the building would come from the CIB.
Roger Swenson wondered if the offer he had been given for his property was based on an appraisal. Mayor Peacock said yes the date of the appraisal was for July 25.
Roger Swenson said the Ferron city building was built for $220,000 in 1991 and would cost approximately $336,000 today. He said this new building at a possible cost of $2 million seemed excessive.
Mayor Peacock said the costs would be shared with three entities.
Roger Swenson said the residents of Castle Dale City should be up in arms. "Do you need to take all the property," asked Roger Swenson. The council replied that much property is needed and does Mr. Swenson have an asking price. He replied yes, the county appraisal of his property which was $76,000 is his asking price.
The Swensons and Platt replied they would sell if their asking prices were met.
The buildings have been empty since 2008. In 2006 the Paperworks store closed. Tyler Jeffs Farm Bureau Financial was there for a short time.
Larry Liston the owner of TC West asked the council if they had any intent to go after his building either now or in the near future. Mayor Peacock said they have no intent to purchase his building or use eminent domain on his property. Liston said he doesn't want to be worried. Mayor Peacock said he can't speak for future city councils, but this council isn't interested in his property.
Councilmember Dixie Thompson asked Mayor Peacock to explain how eminent domain works. First an appraisal must be completed. Then the city would make an offer for the property based on the appraisal. If the offer is rejected by the property owner, then the city if the council votes could move to eminent domain and file in court. The judge would then decide the price.
The Platt property was appraised at $7,000 the city was offering double the appraisal price.
There was an inaccuracy in the square footage on the Swenson's appraisal so a new appraisal is being sent to them.
The judge could turn down the eminent domain if he/she decided it wasn't applicable. The judge would also set the price.
Jay Mark Humphrey from the Emery Water Conservancy District said they have outgrown their building. They purchased the vacant lot for $43,000. Parking on Main Street isn't good. The property being considered would be adequate for the large office building and adequate parking and much safer than Main Street parking.
The water conservancy district needs a 6,000-8,000 sq. foot building. Whether or not they are able to partner with Castle Dale City, the district needs a new building. They need a conference room and more offices. They could go to CIB on their own, but the CIB looks more favorably on partnerships and the wise use of public funds. Humphrey said he is in support of the project.
The CVSSD will also discuss the matter of a new building in their September meeting.
The council came out of their public hearing to make a decision on the matter of the property. Mayor Peacock outlined what could be done at this time. The city could file an eminent domain action with the court. The council could vote for the resolution to declare eminent domain and then table the filing of the court document until further negotiations with the land owners. The council could table the whole matter until next month.
The council could continue to negotiate with the land owners and vote at the next meeting on Oct. 11.
The council could vote not to proceed with eminent domain and tell the attorney's to leave things as they are.
Councilmember Joel Dorsch moved to table the matter until the next council meeting after there has been time to confer with the Castle Valley Special Service District and the Emery Water Conservancy District.
Negotiations will also continue with the property owners. Councilmember Pizzuto wondered if the property owners would be willing to submit other appraisals.
Councilmembers seemed to agree that upgrades are needed for Main Street a new city hall now and maybe a fire station in the future would improve the look of the city and create a more positive place for every business in town.