By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN On a split vote, Delano City Council decided to keep the former Xcel Energy building, located at 10 West Bridge Avenue.
During a special council work session, a decision was made to re-use the front portion of the building, and re-purpose it into a city facility that could be used for events hosted by civic organizations, farmers markets, and other activities.
Three members of the city council walked through the building July 19. At the work session, the council reviewed the costs of demolishing the building versus saving it and re-purposing it.
To move forward with re-purposing the building, which is what the council decided to do, the cost will be $190,053. Had the council decided to tear the structure down, the cost would have been $108,512, a difference of about $82,000.
“We’re throwing good money after a bad project,” Council Member Jack Russek, who was the dissenting vote on the matter, said during the work session.
Russek said he hadn’t spoken with one person who said the city should save and re-purpose the building.
On the flip side, Mayor Dale Graunke said he had spoken with a number of residents who had spoken favorably about saving the structure, and hadn’t talked to any who said to tear it down.
Russek said the roof may not leak now, but said if larger doors are built into the building, it could lead to roof leaks. Graunke said it wouldn’t.
The mayor also said that, in his opinion, the building is probably one of the better-built structures in town.
Council Member Dan Vick said he has heard comments similar to those received by Russek, but said he is not in favor of tearing down another building in town.
“This is against the way I think, but I don’t want to see another vacant lot,” Vick said.
Graunke said this step would be a launching pad for a potential future for the structure.
“Right now, there is use for the building,” he said, citing several local organizations that have expressed interest in utilizing the structure if it were re-purposed. He said this step could perhaps lead to some sort of conference or city center down the road.
“We have to think outside of the box on some of this stuff,” Graunke said. “That’s all there is to it.”
Tiffiney Taylor of the Delano Community Market, which is presently open Saturdays in the park area on River Street on both sides of Three Crows Cafe and Coffee House, said almost every Saturday the market has been open has been gray and overcast.
She said people haven’t been supporting the market as organizers had hoped, and said people may be more inclined to participate if it were in a location like the former Xcel building.
Delano resident Dan Gustafson said he hopes the building would see use, but added re-purposing the structure seems like taking a gamble on a venue with tax dollars. He said he would like to see the city relieve itself of some properties it owns, turning property to private ownership, and getting the parcels onto the tax rolls.
Graunke said it is his hope Delano can be created as a “destination.”
Gustafson said retail is needed in order for that to happen.
Another component to the re-purposing plan is an agreement with the Delano American Legion to share in parking lot resurfacing costs, since both the Legion and the city building would utilize the parking lot area.
The council decided to move forward with plans to re-purpose the building, contingent upon the parking agreement with the Delano American Legion.
Electrical fixtures will also be installed in the building as part of the Delano Municipal Utilities conservation program. The floor will be leveled and the basement will be filled.
City declines to meet with Independence
A request from the City of Independence to have a discussion regarding utilities was declined by the city council.
In 2009, the two cities had conversation regarding a utility extension from Delano into Independence to accommodate development in the area of Highway 12 and County Line Road. The two entities were not able to reach an agreement at that time, and no project has moved forward in the area.
Several options were presented to the council for consideration, including designation of a small group to meet with Independence officials, or to not meet at this time.
Mayor Dale Graunke said nothing has been proposed for development in that area at this point, but said Independence is interested in having a plan in place should something come forward. It was also noted the landowner may have a lead for development on the property.
The council also noted with progress on the northwest business park (see related story), among other issues, city staff has plenty on their plates to be focusing on.
Graunke said if there is a specific project being proposed, perhaps then Delano officials would be interested in sitting down for another round of discussion.