Homeless shelter halted
Following the discovery of potential encroachment issues, Red Wing City Council members voted to cancel the purchase agreement for a building in the historic district.
The 160-year-old building at 621 W. Fourth St., currently owned by Bremseth Family Dental, recently gained attention when the city talked of turning the location into a homeless shelter and Goodhue County wanted the property for future expansion and/or parking.
During the July 24 City Council meeting, members voted to proceed with the purchase, contingent on the title being cleared to the city's satisfaction. After further inspection, the city ruled out two major concerns reflecting the title issue:
• The property does encroach on United Lutheran Church.
• A retaining wall that lies between the building and the church property reaches the border of the church property and the county property.
Council members mentioned the total cost for the home being set at $350,000 with repairs estimated at $400,000.
Amongst the concerns, United Lutheran Church's proposed resolution to encroachment requires approval both the city and county agreement along with maintenance of the retaining wall. Due to these issues, city staff recommended canceling the purchase agreement.
Public comment on the subject was diverse, with some citizens backing the city's decision to halt the deal and others hoping the city will preserve the historic building.
"As a retiree, our tax money should be used in a wise manner," Janet Johnson said. "It comes pretty obvious that we're going to get ourselves into a quagmire trying to purchase this property. It has so many problems attached to it that I believe the city should take the opportunity to cancel out of this. There's a lot of retirees that will be very happy if you do that."
Sarah Hansen spoke on behalf of herself and Kent Tsui, both members of the Heritage Preservation Commission.
"When our values are tested, it is not in times of comfort and ease. The house at 621 W. Fourth St. is important to our town. It was built for the businessman in the late 1850s," Hansen said. "It's been home to doctor and dentist office throughout the years. What price do we put on our values, our history, our tradition and our past?"
Council members voted 4-3 to cancel the purchase agreement. Peggy Rehder, John Becker and Evan Brown voted against the motion.
Another motion followed to reconsider the purchase agreement once the encroachment issue was resolved. The vote failed 3-4.
Some council members fear the property will turn into another parking lot.
"Now we're going to have the county with a piece of property, because I am betting we're going to get a very similar recommendation potentially," Brown said. "I don't like this deal, but it is the only deal I see that leads us to be able to negotiate with the county at a later date."
Council President Kim Beise, who initially favored the project, stated he could no longer support it.
"We just finished River City Days. I spent a lot of time around the community talking to people. Many of them asked what we were doing behind this with their dollars," Beise said. "They weren't supportive of it. I had no one that I talked to supporting the city behind this project.
"We don't have the funding, yes we can make it happen, but is that our role? We have projects coming before us that need more funds than we've allotted to already. To go out and spend more money for something that we haven't even put in the budget is wrong."