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WRTC purchase documents in hands of buyers

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Willmar,Minnesota 56201 http://www.wctrib.com/sites/all/themes/wctrib_theme/images/social_default_image.png
West Central Tribune
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WRTC purchase documents in hands of buyers
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- A stack of 43 documents that detail the sale of the Willmar Regional Treatment Center to Kandiyohi County and a private Willmar company is now in the hands of the private buyer.

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"We signed all of our papers three weeks ago," said Kandiyohi County Administrator Wayne Thompson. "We've signed everything," he said. "As far as I know, all the county work is done."

Jim Sieben, a spokesman from MinnWest Technology, said Tuesday that the company now has all the documents in their possession. "It's finally in our hands," said Sieben. "We're finally able to review all the documents."

He said the company, which is involved with poultry equipment and animal vaccine industry, is in the process of reading the documents and sending responses back to the state on various issues.

"We have a multitude of things we're needing to work on here," said Sieben. He did not elaborate on what the issues were.

The documents lay out the agreements for the complicated sale of the Willmar campus. Some of the documents are "many, many pages long," said Thompson.

The state is in the process of selling the 113-acre campus and its 44 buildings. The sale is part of the state's process to move the adult mental health program from an institutional setting to community-based facilities.

Kandiyohi County is purchasing seven buildings and 18 acres of bare land for $1. The county will have permanent ownership of two buildings to house the Prairie Lakes Youth Program, which is a juvenile detention center. The county will lease the other five buildings back to the state, which will continue to operate several self-supporting programs on the campus.

MinnWest Technology -- made up of two local companies, Nova-Tech Engineering and Epitopix -- is purchasing the remaining 37 buildings and 95 acres of bare land for $900,000 to create a technology campus to house a variety of technology-based businesses. During earlier community presentations, the company has said the technology campus would bring 600 to 900 new jobs to the community.

There will be a delay in selling five of the buildings to MinnWest to allow the state more time to move out. Those facilities include the administrative building, power plant, a maintenance building, a service building and Cottage 4.

Thompson said the county is in the process of converting the utilities in its seven buildings from the main power plant on campus to separate mechanical systems that will operate independently in each building. Meters to measure the utilities have already been installed in the buildings.

Once all the conversions are completed, the state will abandon the power plant sometime next year, said Thompson. The process of locating all the utilities on the campus took many hours of surveying and involved creation of a utility plat for the campus, he said.

The county will hire three, and possibly four, current state employees to maintain the county buildings and property. MinnWest will be responsible for maintaining the buildings and grounds that it will own.

The county will pay the up-front costs for the utility conversion and building maintenance, but the state will eventually reimburse the county for expenses.

Thompson said the county will likely charge the state $3 to $3.50 a square foot to lease the buildings. An agreement between the county and state will ensure that the county won't lose money, he said. Once all the actual costs of maintaining and operating the buildings are known, the state will pay any additional costs over the lease rate.

"If ever there was an example of cooperation of state and county government, this is it," said Thompson. The county won't make money by owning the buildings and leasing them back to the state, but it won't lose money either. Plus, he said, many of the jobs associated with the state-operated programs will remain in the community.

Even though the process to sell the campus to MinnWest has taken longer than expected, Sieben said "progress is being made and we are pleased with that."

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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