Pennock officials are hoping legislation may help reopen

PENNOCK -- Phil's Corner has been closed and for sale for nearly a year and a half, leaving Pennock residents without a place in town to buy gas, milk or a loaf of bread.

PENNOCK -- Phil's Corner has been closed and for sale for nearly a year and a half, leaving Pennock residents without a place in town to buy gas, milk or a loaf of bread.

City leaders are looking for ways to reopen the gas station and convenience store.

They have turned to the Minnesota Legislature to provide another option.

Legislation proposed by Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, and Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, would allow the city to purchase the land and building and use city funds to refurbish the 26-year-old business.

"This is kind of a first step to see what can be done," Pennock Mayor Kevin Crowley said on Tuesday. "This is an idea we had that's in its infancy."


City leaders haven't looked into financing or talked to the current owner of the property, Crowley said.

They haven't done that, because they found out early on that state law doesn't specifically allow cities to own gas stations or convenience stores, only municipal liquor stores.

Since it isn't specifically allowed, "they assume you can't," Crowley said.

That's when they turned to local legislators for help. They did not move ahead with any plan at that point, he said.

"There was no sense going any further until we knew that we could," Crowley said.

"It's not that the city wants to be in competition with a commercial entity, that's the last thing," he said. But to get the store back open, "it may need a jump start at this point."

The city might operate the store at first while seeking a private party to lease or buy it, Crowley said, but that would not be the long-term plan.

The Pennock legislation was approved by the House Local Government Committee on Monday and is on its way to the full House of Representatives for approval. A committee hearing in the Senate is scheduled for early next week.


Crowley said he was pleased and a little surprised that state representatives were supportive of the idea.

"This was an original idea on preserving a small town," Juhnke said. Committee members were open to it and one even praised the town for looking for new ideas.

They amended his bill to "sunset" the bill in 10 years, so the Legislature can look at the issue again and see how it worked. Provisions like that are more common when approving new concepts, Juhnke said.

At the hearing Monday, Juhnke, Crowley and Pennock businessman Gary Crowe told the committee that the loss of the store was an inconvenience for the town's residents. An audio recording of the meeting is available on the Legislature's Web site.

Crowley said the city would hold meetings to discuss the plan if the legislation is approved. They said they expected the purchase and update of the building and equipment could cost as much as $225,000, which they could finance with revenue bonds, which would repaid with income from the store.

"It would, in effect, be an investment of the city," Crowley said. "It's not going to be something that would be a large tax burden to people."

-- Information about the legislation is available at by searching the bill numbers -- house file 3446 and senate file 2939.

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