WILLMAR - The city of Willmar might be in the market for a third option for its proposed new city hall. At Monday's Willmar City Council meeting it was announced that the council made no action to move forward with the purchase of the site known as Block 25, at least for now.
"The council wishes to make it public that it did not authorize, in the closed session, the purchase for Block 25 as part of the May 20 council meeting in closed session," Mayor Marv Calvin said. "We are just making that a public statement, stating that."
The council met in a closed session May 20 to consider offers and counteroffers for the possible purchase of non-city-owned property on Block 25.
Calvin said in a later interview with the West Central Tribune that no action at all had been taken during the closed session and no other discussion about the city hall project beyond the Block 25 purchase was held during the closed session. The council received information on the offers and just took it for information, Calvin said.
"We took absolutely no action," Calvin said. "We gave no direction to staff, we didn't do anything."
There is still a council resolution, approved May 6, authorizing staff to pursue an offer on Block 25. Calvin said the council will have to address that at some point. So far, there has been no further public action on Block 25 beyond that May 6 resolution, and there has been no action on the overall city hall project.
In an interview with the Tribune after the meeting Monday night, City Administrator Ike Holland said the council discussed the pros and cons of the Block 25 purchase and the city will now look at other sites.
"We are going to look at other options," Holland said.
Holland would not elaborate on what exactly the council concerns were, saying the information was confidential.
"You never know what direction things are going to go," Holland said.
Block 25 is located between Second and Third Streets Southwest, bordered by U.S. Highway 12 and Benson Avenue Southwest. The city already owns half the block as a city parking lot. The rest of the block is made up of the Nelsen and Wodash properties, with the purchase price of $100,000 each.
The council will have to approve any land purchase before money changes hands.
Councilor Audrey Nelsen has been removing herself from all discussions and voting on Block 25, due to a conflict of interest. Her husband's family owns three parcels on Block 25, the location of former old Nelsen's Laundry, and she and her husband could benefit financially from the sale.
It had also been disclosed that the owner of the Wodash property is also a city employee part-time, though Holland at the May 20 council meeting said the employee has no influence over the council or its decision-making regarding the possible purchase of property and it should not be a conflict of interest for the city.
The City Hall Task Force is planning on meeting again in the near future to go over options, Councilor Kathy Schwantes, chairwoman of the task force, said. The task force, made up of City Council members and city staff, met for several months this year, looking at six different downtown locations for the new city hall. The six sites were the current site of Willmar City Offices, the former Hardware Hank, a small parking lot on Becker Avenue and Fifth Street Southwest, the Christianson building at Litchfield Avenue and Fifth Street Southwest, Block 25 and the Willmar Fire Station.
The Fire Station had been seriously considered by the task force, but following a public meeting where concerns were raised, the task force decided against recommending the city-owned property adjacent to the Fire Station as a possible city hall location.
The search might be continuing for a new city hall site, but Holland said Monday night it could still be possible Block 25 ends up being the preferred site.
"We are not closing the door on it," Holland said.