Competing interests: City declines county request, approves bid for W. Fourth St. property

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Red Wing City Council continues to push forward with preserving a historic building and using it as a homeless shelter.

The council meeting Monday, July 10, allowed citizens to provide feedback on the potential purchase of 621 W. Fourth St. Following the approval of the Advisory Planning Commission's findings, the city ensured time Monday for comment. No public hearing had been held until this point.

County Commissioner Paul Drotos wanted to clarify to the city what Goodhue County aims to do with the property. "The primary issue is the process that's being involved in this acquisition," Drotos said.

During the June 13 Goodhue County Board meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 (Jason Majerus and Barney Nesseth against) to accept a bid of $486,250 from Pember Companies for constructing a parking lot on properties adjacent to 621 W. Fourth St.; the bid did not include purchasing more at the location.

The county, which owns flanking properties, would remove 621 building and use the lot for parking now and potential expansion in the future.

"In a nutshell, we're just trying to look at the big picture of who's concerned in this issue, who the neighbors are and what the long-term plan is. That plan originally was the county, more or less, to develop the block," said Drotos, who also is a Red Wing Public Works employee.

"This was a bit of a shock to the county to be in this discussion. The fact remains that Goodhue County continues to value the relationship with the city of Red Wing, but given the future of the United Lutheran Church and Goodhue County Health and Human services, we respectfully request the city to explore other locations," he said.

Others addressed a distinct need in the community for a homeless shelter.

"I first want to thank the city for addressing and tackling this issue," said Kris Krols, executive director of HOPE Coalition. "The next thing I need to say is this needs to be a group effort. I do believe it needs time and a lot of folks at the table to work on it together. It's not an easy solution."

After a closed session to consider the purchase agreement for 621 W. Fourth St., council members chose to counter-offer two changes — allowing the city to cancel its offer before July 25, based on inspection results, and adding to the seller's offer of the property to maintain a mutually agreed upon lease.

"We have a unique opportunity here," Council President Kim Beise said. "First of all, in protecting a historical asset to the city of Red Wing. We also have an opportunity to make progress in the housing problem that is here that this house may meet."