Archived Story

City still negotiating to sell RTC property

Published 11:08am Tuesday, January 8, 2013

City officials are still optimistic that a deal can be reached between the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va. and the Fergus Falls City Council for the Kirkbride facility on the Regional Treatment Center Campus.

The council Monday met in closed session to discuss the conditions of a letter of interest for the possible purchase of the RTC property. The letter outlined several requests the group made to the city, some of which required public funds, according to city administrator Mark Sievert.

The city is willing to sell the property for $1, as well as a 15-year property tax exemption. The city already has spent about $1 million on infrastructure improvements on the campus.

“We’re interested in working with them,” Sievert said. “Obviously we’re not going to be able to accommodate all their requests financially. We’ll work within the grant and other parameters to try and get them here.”

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is interested in operating the RTC as a tourist attraction, similar to the Kirkbride facility in West Virginia, which is about half the size of the Fergus Falls facility. The West Virginia facility, which employs about 40, offers a variety of events to attract visitors, from haunted tours to a dinner theater to an Easter egg hunt. Profits then go to building maintenance and improvements.

“All along we’ve said that we’re willing to support a project that will work for Fergus Falls, and this is the most realistic and plausible concept that we have been presented with that will do exactly that,” Sievert said.

In addition to the city-owned Kirkbride building, Sievert said the group also is interested in acquiring the nurse’s cottage and other buildings the city sold a couple years ago to Jeff Schlossman.

Time, of course, is of the essence, since the deadline to request reimbursement for up to $5 million in demolition funds is December 2014. The council previously approved the authorization to seek an extension from the Legislature. However, the extension would have to be part of the bonding bill, Sievert said, which means the city would not find out if it received an extension until late May.

The council has already approved city staff to create a preliminary demolition plan. The initial plan, Sievert said, would preserve the tower, kitchen, gymnasium and a garage and shed.

• In other news, the council approved a consulting agreement of $32,000 with Joel Carlson for Regional Treatment Center redevelopment lobbying efforts in the 2013 legislative season. The council had previously approved the authorization to extend the December 2013 deadline to use state demolition funds for the RTC’s Kirkbride building.

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