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Council mulls donation of building to bike non-profit


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MANKATO — The city-owned former CCTV building isn't particularly versatile or beauteous, has no parking and can't be used for rental housing. So when the Mankato City Council asked people to submit offers to purchase and propose a new use for the Vine Street structure, no private developers stepped forward.

The non-profit Key City Bike organization, however, sees the former Jehovah's Witness worship hall as a potential gift from above.

Key City's current space at 1429 N. Riverfront Drive has no furnace or air conditioner.

In cold-weather months, the organization has to discontinue its mission of reclaiming old and unwanted bikes, providing them for free to kids, helping needy adults build their own bike, instructing people in bike repair, and teaching bikers to ride safely.

"So we have to go by the seasons," said Key City Executive Director Acacia Wytaske.

And when Key City's volunteers and patrons have to go, well, they have to go elsewhere. There's no restroom at the Riverfront Drive site, not even a sink.

The old CCTV building?

"We'd have bathroom facilities ...," Wytaske told the City Council Monday night, a bit of wonder in her voice. "People would be able to wash their hands after they get greasy."

Members of the City Council, acting in their role as the Economic Development Authority, weren't thrilled with the nonprofit's $1 proposed payment for the Vine Street building even as they indicated broad support for Key City's altruistic work.

"What's not to like about your organization?" Mayor Eric Anderson said.

But Anderson and Council members Karen Foreman and Mark Frost said there's reason for the council to hesitate in giving Key City the building. It's not really theirs to give.

"We do have a different responsibility here because the building is an asset of the public," Anderson said.

The building was purchased by the city from the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1990 but lost its purpose when the public-access television studio was moved to Bethany Lutheran College in 2015. 

Traditional fiduciary stewardship would suggest seeking the highest possible return when unloading unneeded taxpayer assets, Anderson said: "The logical move is just to sell the building and get what we can get out of it."

Without any off-street parking, though, the building doesn't have a lot of potential as a commercial business, Community Development Director Paul Vogel said. Because the 200-block of East Vine Street already has the maximum allowed amount of rental housing, it couldn't be sold for apartments.

It could become a single-family home, but only if someone was looking for a 3,200-square-foot house that was designed as worship space and later converted into a public-access television building with offices, a studio and editing bays.

Despite its limitations, though, Blue Earth County has assessed the building's value at $169,000.

An assessment of the building calculated $90,000 in needed repairs, although Frost said he looked at the structure with a contractor friend who thought those estimates were overstated five-fold.

Key City officials have indicated a willingness to make repairs to the building, although the larger fixes would need to await fundraising efforts. City staff is also recommending that any agreement with Key City would need to allow the city to reclaim the building if the organization discontinued operations, failed to maintain the structure or attempted to sell it.

Foreman suggested staff add provisions to any contract with Key City that spells out what repairs the organization would make in return for receiving the building for free. In addition, Foreman said the agreement could include the possibility of annual payments to the city if Key City, through grants or other funding sources, because more financially flush in future years.

"At some point down the line, we need to start having some financial responsibility back to the citizen," Foreman said.

Council members voted to have staff continue negotiations with Key City. A proposed agreement is expected to come back for a final decision at an Economic Development Authority meeting in March or April.

http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/council-mulls-donation-of-building-to-bike-non-profit/article_a5a281d8-f25a-11e6-a762-7b8cc6a634e2.html

 

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