Archived Story

City stands firm on RTC with legal challenge possible

Published 10:58am Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Facing a potential roadblock to Kirkbride demolition from the State Historic Preservation Office, the Fergus Falls City Council was urged Monday by Regional Treatment Center advisor Kent Mattson to begin taking steps to get any possible lawsuit out of the way as soon as possible.

At issue is some correspondence between SHPO and the city and between SHPO and the Minnesota Department of Administration, the state department that set up the city’s RTC demolition/infrastructure agreement.

“The request right now to the city is to basically determine whether or not a conditional (environmental assessment worksheet) is required,” Mattson said.

An EAW on what the effects of RTC demolition would be was conducted prior to the city taking over the property in 2007, but Mattson said SHPO wants to know if the city needs to conduct an updated one.

“They have given their impression that perhaps one may be required,” said Mattson.

However, Mattson said he has talked to the Department of Administration about doing an EAW, and as he understands it, a new one is not needed unless the circumstances surrounding the project have changed. Though more tax credits are now available to help fund Kirkbride preservation, the possible end goal of the grants – demolition – has not changed since the EAW was done.

To the Department of Administration, SHPO has requested evidence that the department and SHPO had a written agreement that demolition was a suitable course of action for the Kirkbride building. The department believes that such an agreement did take place through discussions and correspondence between it and SHPO before much of SHPO’s current administration arrived, but Mattson said SHPO could be looking for an official contract – one that may or may not exist.

Mattson said the position he recommends the city take is that the state gave Fergus Falls assurances in when it transferred ownership of the RTC that the paperwork was in order and the grant could be used for demolition, and that a change in those circumstances now would be unfair to the city and its taxpayers.

“We will stick with the promises that were made to us when we took the property back in 2007,” said Mattson.

Though the council took no action, Mattson said the best option now is for staff to begin trying to resolve the situation with SHPO, and to request state reimbursement for money the city has already paid on the RTC project as soon as possible. That way, if SHPO or someone else files an injunction against the city receiving state funding for the project, that situation can be dealt with in court as soon as possible.

“If we’re going to get hung up in a lawsuit by SHPO or some other state agency that’s trying to challenge the grant dollars we have available, we’d rather get that on the table now because the clock is ticking, and it’s taking attention away from trying to do good on the project,” Mattson said.

Mattson will keep the city informed on the communication process with SHPO. The council expects to hear information about possible demolition options for the building at its Aug. 6 meeting.

  • nanajean

    My understanding is that the EAW is only good for 5 years, and either way you look at it its been that. The original was done in 2004, and now it is 2012. If its the regulation it is a regulation.

  • doctipster

    Hard to want to preserve something when the council has an agenda and people who want that land. I’m not saying there has been any back door deals, or closed meetings that the public isn’t privy to. (they would never do that right) but I think a new hockey arena that the school wants will look great up in that parcel don’t you agree.

    I’m just sayin…

    • nanajean

      I don’t normally repjy to those who cannot use a proper ID, but maybe you have forgotten that they already rammed the ice arena through…

  • doctipster

    ahh, you are correct, What i meant to say was the new Football arena/stadium that the school district wants would look great up there, guess my subtle hints about how i felt the council would never do backdoor meetings overshadowed my thought process when i wrote this. Good catch though. I’m glad I had the chance to specify what I meant to say.

    But a football arena/stadium is what i hear grumblings about for up on the hill. But don’t worry right, The school must ask us permission in Novemeber for this since it is a school request. (just like the hockey arena) until the council deems it necessary that the arena doesn’t have sufficient parking space and therfor needs to buy the practice field from the school, and then that becomes a city problem and they force it through once again. Once anything becomes a “city problem” they can get council to vote on it and pass it without a referendum. I wish we were like most cities where we as the taxpayers would get a choice on these expensive projects but no, we don’t, because the council has a port authority and can make what ever deals it wants.

    What we should do as taxpayers is get rid of the port authority, and thus force the city council to come to the taxpayers for projects more than 1 million. That would make sense.

    • nanajean

      Everything I have hears is that it will simple replace and take over the practice field, I have not heard any mention of it at the Kirkbride, which would really be stupid with the additional busing that would require. Never mind that after the what the council has pushed through I think the voting public will stand together against this. With the additional taxes to replace the police station on land that the city attorneys wife owned, and the arena they will be thinking hard and long…

  • Kirkbride lover

    See The Truth, (in my opinion) your council members don’t care what you as citizens want. They are in it for themselves and they won’t hear of anything else. Thats why they don’t accomodate room for people to be in the meetings. The little cards to “request” to be heard as people. It is all about control, a major card for most of them as though they have stated in so many words to the public. These are the ones that need a swift kick in the butt to wake them up.

  • Gumball

    The city needs to move forward and this is the first steps. Why does everyone who posts here always have to be so negative? I happen to agree with our council. We needed the new arena…look how much it’s being used. The old one would never have made it through the year.

    • nanajean

      I’m sorry but this is not a council matter, it is a school district matter. If the district can pay for it with out adding yet another tax or extended levy on those who live here fine. The council needs to keeps its nose out of the school district and pay attention to what they were elected and hired to do. It does not bring jobs in to the city, it does nothing for education, it is just another way to get what they want when they want it. And people think that the friends are whiny spoiled brats

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