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City takes steps to build city parking, improve property for sale

Gail Leverson of the Cass County Economic Development Corporation offered the Pine River City Council an opportunity that could facilitate the sale of the former Tom Thumb on the corner of Highway 371 and Barclay Avenue to a new business.

At the Oct. 8 regular monthly council meeting, Leverson said there are two buyers interested in the property, but they would like more parking near the property. She said the lack of parking has prevented the sale of the property in the past.

The building has been empty for more than 10 years.

Leverson said there are three vacant buildings adjacent to the former Tom Thumb building that could be demolished to improve city infrastructure and to build expanded parking space. Leverson said the city could apply for and use redevelopment funds available through the state for demolition and improvement. A similar project was done in Walker, Leverson said.

“I’ve talked to the property owners, and they are willing to sell those properties. Franzen Bank is willing to sell the two properties they currently own, and Randy Bickford is willing to sell his property to the city for use of a parking lot,” Leverson said.

Leverson said the grant requires a 50 percent local match, but the city could use the acquisition price of the corner property as the match.

“I am estimating you could get about $180,000, including acquisition price, demolition of those three buildings and redevelopment of the parking lot,” Leverson said.

The city would need to get estimates for the cost of demolition of the infrastructure in October. Leverson would work on the application for the funding in November, and the final approval would be needed in December.

Leverson said the buyers interested in the property would not wait through summer for a decision to be made, so the issue is time sensitive.

The buildings being considered are the old Pine Wood Cafe, the building behind the cafe and the former Eastern Star building.

“I think it’s a good idea. I think you should go through with it provided the grant money would be ours,” council member Tamara Hansen said.

The council agreed to start the project.

In other business Oct. 8, the council:

• Approved a bid by Schrupp Excavating for installation of a beach at the Dam Park.

• Accepted the donation of playground equipment for the playground near the Dam Park.

• Asked Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand to issue a citation to nuisance properties that would require cleanup.

• Discussed the conditions agreed upon when the city hired Sand. Sand said he was told he would be reimbursed with additional insurance because the city did not need to pay into the Public Employees Retirement Association on his behalf. The council decided to review the agreement set out in the council’s meetings during the time he was hired in order to determine the best option.

• Agreed to hire a process server to serve the owners of Oxford Oaks a letter asking for either the sale of property or an easement on the property for the purpose of extending water and sewer to property owned by Jay Kline.

• Agreed to expand the city revolving loan fund to a limited area outside of the city limits. The fund would be available within two miles from the city center. Those living outside of the city would have a 1.5 percent higher interest rate on revolving loan funds, and only one-third of the available fund balance would be available for loans outside of the city.