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Peterson Biddick demolition project moving ahead

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Peterson Biddick demolition project moving ahead
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

The deteriorating Peterson Biddick building is closer to being demolished after the county agreed to waive delinquent taxes on the property and land fill tipping fees for demolished materials.

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Wadena Economic Development Director Dean Uselman requested the fees be waived to allow the Wadena Development Authority and the Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority to purchase the property and sell it to the Buckwheat Growers Association.

"The county, the city, the school have all shared in the benefits of Peterson Biddick Co.," Uselman said.

Now it's gotten to a point where the building is not a benefit to anyone, he said. "It needs to be abated," he said. "We're asking that the county share in that abatement and allow new development to begin."

The Peterson Biddick building has become unfit to inhabit, Uselman said. The roof is collapsed and the second floor fell down to the first floor.

"Everything is just falling apart," he said. "It's really become a hazard."

There was also a rat problem in 2006, Uselman said. About the same time he started working as the economic development director, Tom Bilek of the Buckwheat Growers Association came to him wanting to resolve the rat problem by removing the whole building and allowing the Buckwheat Growers to expand. They plan to build additional retail, office, production and warehouse space, Uselman said.

"That's what we've been working toward," he said.

Quotes to demolish and prepare the site for construction range from about $160,000 up to $300,000, Uselman said.

He's been working for the past two and a half years to take care of IRS liens on the property, mortgages and other issues. Most recently he worked with the railroad, which is not the easiest group to work with, he said.

"I did have them come and visit the site, and now, all of a sudden, it's one of the top priorities to get this thing torn down," he said.

They want to remove their liability concerns by deeding the property to the WDA and HRA for a dollar, which is around a $40,000 hit for them based on other similar rail side locations, Uselman said.

The HRA and WDA have each committed $50,000 in order to match a $100,000 redevelopment grant, he said. Using the low estimate of $160,000 plus the costs for obtaining land, negotiating the release of mortgages and other legal encumbrances, they felt $200,000 should be adequate.

They would own the land and it would basically be a conduit to transfer it to the Buckwheat Growers, he said. If things fall through for them to purchase it, it's a site with rail siding, which is in short supply in the county, and would be open for development by another business or industry looking for rail siding.

The amount of delinquent taxes he was asking the county to waive amounted to approximately $27,400, he said.

County Auditor/Treasurer Char West said Minnesota Statute allows her to write off delinquent taxes under certain conditions, which this situation meets, but she would like to know what the county board thinks.

It would cost far more than $27,000 for the county to clean up the property, West said.

The board passed a motion to waive the delinquent taxes and the land fill tipping fees. They hesitated to approve waiving any fees relating to the rat abatement because Public Health Director Karen Nelson was out of town.

Uselman urged them to make a decision. The WDA and HRA would like to move forward, he said. Getting a commitment from the rail road was a big step and his board needs an answer before they sign a purchase agreement.

"Once we sign a purchase agreement it's ours," Uselman said. "And we want to know where we stand with the county before that time."

The county agreed to waive any collection fees paid by Public Health for rat abatement. Commissioner Bill Stearns abstained from voting on all of the issues because he is a member of the Wadena Port Authority Board.

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