City announces plan to return Hotel Atwater to private owner
ATWATER -- The city of Atwater will give up ownership of the Hotel Atwater as well as a $90,000 state grant to renovate the historic structure.
"Of course it's disappointing," said Suzanne Meyerson, who had sold the two-story building to the city for $1 last year so it could be refurbished for city use. "But so is the uncertainty of the current economy disappointing."
The city successfully landed a $90,000 matching grant from the state Historical Society last year and had plan-ned to renovate the building for use as a city hall, li-brary and police de-partment.
Estimates had the project in the $1 million to $1.6 million range.
Concern about the economy, and how much local government aid the state might take away from Atwater, led the council to back away from their plans.
At their meeting Wednesday the council agreed to deed the hotel back to Meyerson. A formal resolution to return the property is expected to be approved later this month.
Because public ownership of the building is required for the grant to be used, the city will have to turn down the state money, said Mayor Bruce Baker.
Last year the city lost about $38,000 in state aid and additional cuts are expected this year, said Baker, who is frustrated state lawmakers are dawdling with budget decisions.
That has the council worried about spending their savings at this time on the renovation of the hotel.
"We didn't have it in the budget where we thought we could make it work right now," said Baker. "Money's so tight."
This week the council went through their 2009 budget with a fine-toothed comb looking for additional cuts. "Each department is going to get whacked a little bit," said Baker. "There's no gravy this year. We're right down to the bone."
Meyerson understands the city's position.
"Atwater's a small town and it's a big project," she said.
"But I had hoped the city would've considered doing it slowly over phases and applying for additional grants," she said.
Baker said the council didn't have the stomach for spending upwards of $1.6 million for the project at this time and didn't think it was fair to hold up the grant money that could be used for other state projects.
Meyerson said perhaps Kandiyohi County could assume ownership of the building and access the grant money to renovate the hotel. Because the Historical Society grants come from the state capitol budget and not the general fund, Meyerson said additional grant money would be available to slowly fund the renovation.
In the meantime, Meyerson said she'll keep maintaining the building.
"I'll have to do my best to keep any leaks in the roof in check," she said, and keep holding out hope the economy improves.