Extend the RTC deadline? [UPDATED]Published 11:16am Monday, August 27, 2012 Updated 10:10am Tuesday, August 28, 2012
With the Fergus Falls City Council’s approval of a marketing contract with Colliers International last week, many residents have their fingers crossed that the global brokerage firm can land a Regional Treatment Center developer with potential.
If such a developer comes around by next year, local Rep. Bud Nornes believes the state could give Fergus Falls more time to seal the deal.
“I would be very optimistic,” he said. “The state of Minnesota has worked very closely with the city from the beginning on redeveloping that property.”
When the state originally gave the city a grant to demolish the building, said Nornes, it wasn’t just a guarantee that the Kirkbride would be knocked down. Instead, it was a chance to find a use for the building before the wrecking ball hit.
“I think that was a show of sincere support for doing the right thing,” he said.
Currently, the deadline for the $7.1 million grant is December 2014. It has already been pushed back a couple of times by the Department of Administration, but the department has told the city it would need legislative action to move the grant back any further. Nornes broached the topic again at the Aug. 6 council meeting, stating his belief that a grant extension would have bipartisan support.
“I guess I was thinking of three, four months — whatever it would take to get the job done, but I don’t think we would stretch it for a long period of time,” he told The Journal.
“I believe everyone, including the Governor, would be very happy to see something positive coming out of this,” he noted.
Unfortunately, The Journal was unable to get many of the state’s political leaders to weigh in. Representatives from the offices of House Majority Leader Kurt Zellers, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, and Governor Mark Dayton could either not be reached or declined comment.
Senate Majority Leader David Senjem did respond to a request for comment. While he’s not intimately familiar with the situation, he said it would be very possible to extend the grant if a viable developer was found.
“If the community shows they want to request more time, my belief would be that it would be granted,” he said.
District 11 Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen is running this year for the newly formed District 8 senate seat, which covers most of Otter Tail County. When he was sheriff of Douglas County, Ingebrigtsen often visited the RTC for work.
“It was the center for many, many years, so I understand the passion,” he said.
Since announcing his run for District 8 earlier this year, Ingebrigtsen has heard from a number of people who want to save the building.
“I would certainly be open to extending the time if you had a potential buyer,” he said, adding that he would hesitate if the request was to extend the deadline “into oblivion.”
Dan Skogen, former state senator and Ingebrigtsen’s DFL opponent in the fall election, had similar thoughts.
“If we have a developer or the hopes of a developer lined up, I would certainly advocate that we try to delay (the deadline),” he said.
He noted that the state issuing the grant was itself a delay of demolition, a sign for him that the state understands that a redevelopment of the building could take a long time.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” he said. “Once it’s gone, it will never be duplicated.”
Chet Nettestad, who’s running against Nornes this fall, had a different perspective.
“If I had my choice, I would extend it indefinitely until we have someone with an appreciation for the lesser of us,” he said.
Nettestad believes the building should be left standing until it can be turned into a government center again, similar to when it was a state hospital. He stated that the structure should be used to help the homeless and mentally ill in the area.
“I don’t know where these people are supposed to go,” he said.
Nornes thinks the recent interest in the building from preservationists and movie makers has been positive. In his mind, the RTC would be most easily redeveloped by several tenants, with one or two major businesses anchoring the proceedings.
“I can’t single out anything that the city should or could have done differently,” he said when commenting on the process. However, he did say that a more optimistic attitude from council members about the building’s prospects might help ease the concerns of some RTC advocates.Tags: Regional Treatment Center