Havre Daily News
Discussion of a proposal to purchase city-owned land on the south side of Havre will likely be put on hold.
Members of the Havre City Council's Finance Committee on Tuesday decided to recommend tabling the proposal, made by a Phoenix-based developer bidding on the project to construct a new U.S. Border Patrol facility.
One local contractor asked the city to keep his company in mind, a City Council member questioned the city's land-sale policy, and city officials received project specifications from the federal General Services Administration.
Finance Committee members said they need to answer several questions before deciding whether the city would be willing to sell the 30-acre parcel. Hewson Development Company made an offer of $300,000 last month.
City Council member Terry Schend said it was best to table the matter until the committee could find answers to three questions: how to determine the value of the land, if the city will sell to the highest bidder, and whether the city is interested in selling the land.
Finance Committee chair Rick Pierson said investment specialist Joel Hewson said he wants to rework the company's proposal before the City Council considers it. Hewson added that the company was unaware that a portion of the land is leased from the city by the Saddle Butte RC Club, Pierson said.
The new facility will include two buildings, totalling 53,000 square feet. One building will be larger, sized between 32,000 and 35,000 square feet. The agency will first consider proposals to build the facility within or adjacent to city limits. The facility, a General Services Administration document said, cannot be located near schools or residential areas.
Council member Jack Brandon said the City Council should first determine if it is willing to sell the property and then decide what the specific requirements are going to be for bidding on a property.
Council member Pam Hillery, who is not a part of the Finance Committee but attended the meeting, said she wasn't aware the city land was for sale, and asked whether all city land was up for bid at any time. She asked if the city had a list of property for sale. She added that she didn't like Hewson's offer because she thought it was in the city's best interest to decide what the extra money should be spent on.
“I prefer we decide what to do with the extra money because the city is so strapped for cash,” Hillery said.
Pierson read a letter presented by Clausen and Sons, Inc. asking for the city's equal consideration of Clausen has interest in the U.S. Border Patrol project. Clausen's have been involved in the bidding process for a year and a half, the letter said. Owner Dave Clausen wrote that several factors determine whether or not the General Services Administration is willing to accept an offer from the bidder. Pierson also read another document from the General Services Administration.
Schend said his first concern was the RC club's lease. He added that if the club was willing to relocate, they should come up with a list of specifications and requirements to give to the buyer of the property. He also said the city needed to be open to any and all interested parties who were bidding on this project.
Schend also questioned if local taxpayer dollars should be used for water and sewer infrastructure improvements, or if the successful bidding company should cover those costs.
“If we are really interested in selling the property, we need to settle two issues,” he said. “The flying club's lease and how much is the property worth.”
Pierson told RC club members not to worry about losing their land.
“The city won't break the lease on the property without permission from the flying club,” Pierson said. He added that until the federal General Services Administration gives the city details, the city won't be able to make an informed decision on sale proposals.
Flying club members said the club wasn't interested in standing in the way of progress, but wants to make sure it will be compensated for what members stand to lose.
Chuck Bottoms said the flying club was open to negotiations with the city and interested companies as long as they didn't have to worry about relocation.
“We're open to negotiations if the (new) flying field is comparable and we can enjoy ourselves,” Bottoms said. “We certainly don't want to stop progress in Havre.”
Charles Evans agreed that he didn't want to stop progress either, but he felt since their contract was with the city, it was the city's responsibility to help them negotiate the terms should the city agree to the sale of their land.
“I don't want to stand in the way of progress, but the contract is with the city and it's up to the city to help us negotiate this,” he said.
Bottoms also raised the question to the city if some of the land or property on the land where the flying field is located was condemned.
Public works director Dave Peterson said the dikes may be condemned, as well as the ditches, but he didn't think anything else on the land was.
Pierson said there were a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered before making a decision.