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Council to consider record purchase

It’s likely the Farmington City Council could set a record later this month when the group votes to purchase a new location for a fire station. If approved as written, the council will purchase roughly 54,000 square feet of downtown land for a price of $685,000 — nearly $13 per square foot, or more than $550,000 per acre.

Council members are set to hear a first reading of a bill preliminarily approved in a closed-door executive session last month. The bill should come back before the council for a second reading and vote later this month. If approved, the city would purchase the Wohschlaeger property adjacent to the police station. The existing building would be demolished as part of the deal, and then the city would build a new fire station.

The bill being considered by the council calls for a purchase price on the property of about $900,000. There’s a provision where the seller will “donate” $215,000 of the purchase price back to the city. Still that leaves the city paying nearly $13 per square foot for the land … a price more than double the cost paid for the most expensive real estate along U.S. 67 or during the development of the Maple Valley shopping complex.

City Administrator Greg Beavers said it’s expected a majority of the council will approve the purchase of the land. A second bill is being introduced at the same time to lease the existing building back to the Wohschlaeger family for a period of about six months while design work is being done for the new fire station.

Not all council members are on board with the idea of spending $13 per foot for property in the current economic times when the city already owns usable land in the same area. Councilman Larry Forsythe has been vocal in saying the city should consider building a new firehouse on the lot currently occupied by the city street department and maintenance shed.

Forsythe agrees that both of those services could be relocated to city-owned land on the southeast edge of town and be housed in cost-effective buildings which would serve their needs better than what they have to work in now. A new, larger fire station could be built on the Middle Street land and still remain downtown, but at a savings of the $680,000 the majority of the council seems ready to spend on the Wohschlaeger property.

Apparently a couple other council members share Forsythe’s thoughts on the new firehouse, but sources close to the situation seem to believe at least a simple majority of council members would vote to spend the $680,000 if the vote was taken this week.

And the council should heard the reading of two bills which will greatly enhance the city-owned regional airport. The first allows for an agreement between the mayor and Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for $464,000 in state funds to be used for property acquisition for a parallel taxiway and future runway extension.

The second bill allows for a similar agreement for a state block grant in the amount of $185,513 to be used on the new airport terminal building which is nearing completion.

Funds from both sources are use-specific and cannot be used for any other city spending.

The council will consider three additional bills dealing with two separate Community Improvement District designations. The first allows establishes the “Mineral Area Community Improvement District” and allows for establishing a board of directors. The new CID, a program which allows for additional sales tax revenue to be collected within a refined area, covers land presently owned by R.L. Jones including the shopping center which houses Tractor Supply, Deals, El Torrero Mexican restaurant and others, along with the new beauty academy and unimproved lots.

In order for the R.L. Jones development company to fully utilize future CID tax revenue the area in question must be deemed as “blighted”, explained Beavers. A second ordinance up for an initial reading at the work session will designate the shopping center as a “blighted area”.

A third CID-related bill to be considered would establish a cooperative agreement between the Maple Valley Plaza Community Improvement District and Farmington Retail, LLC — the Gundaker development at the corner of Maple Street and Maple Valley Drive — and the city for the purpose of collecting the additional sales tax revenue and then funneling it back to the developer.

Tonight’s meeting will begin with a series of public hearings about these issues starting at 6:30 p.m. in Long Memorial Hall. All regular council work sessions and meetings are open to the public.

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