November 21, 2018 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  GoodNeighbor asks for property tax abatement

Rob Thompson and Ted Christianson, of GoodNeighbors Properties, LLC asked the Grant County Commissioners for a ten year property tax abatement, on 90 percent of the value of the new senior living facility they are building in Elbow Lake. The large senior living, assisted living, and memory care facility will be attached to Maplewood Manor and incorporate the old Grant County Hospital building, as well as a new wing that will be built with 19 new housing units. The facility will be managed by Northern Oaks Management.

Thompson told the commissioners that contractors are removing asbestos from the old hospital right now. That should be completed in a week, and then they hope to install a new roof on the building before gutting it and starting construction of apartments. Construction of the new building will start next spring, and should be done by September or October of 2019, with residents moving in by the end of the year.

GoodNeighbor completed a purchase agreement with the city of Elbow Lake for the existing Maplewood Manor, and we be sole owners by the beginning of 2019.

“We plan to hire most of our staff four months or so before opening,” he said.

He said they were asking the county to abate 90 percent of the property taxes on the new facility for ten years, so rent can be kept down and the facility can be competitive with other assisted living facilities in the area.

Thompson said his conversations with Elbow Lake city council officials lead him to believe the city will also grant a tax abatement for the facility.

“We are not asking to pay no taxes,” Thompson said. “Just to be competitive with the other facilities in the county.”

He said the facility will have a negative cash flow for the first two or three years, and if they expect to keep rates at 75 to 80 percent of other facilities, they need the tax abatement.

Thompson said the facility is expected to have a market value of over three million dollars when completed and will be an upscale assisted living facility. It will feature an entrance and commons area with a cathedral wooden beam ceiling and lots of natural light. The facility will have numerous courtyards and amenities outside, including an enclosed courtyard for the memory care residents. Yet they still hope to keep rent lower than competing facilities. He said a study of demographics shows an assisted living facility in Elbow Lake is needed and will be popular. He said that Elbow Lake has a new hospital just a couple of blocks away, that the senior living facility will be a feeder for. Plus residents will like the fact that a hospital is so close, whereas senior living facilities in Hoffman and Barrett require a longer drive to a hospital or clinic.

Thompson thanked the county for providing funds for the asbestos abatement, and reminded them that not having to tear down the old hospital saved Grant County around $150,000

Commissioner Troy Johnson asked Thompson if he had any figures on how many people the senior living facility will employee, and what will be the average wage?

“We just rejected a request for this from another assisted living (in Hoffman),” he said, adding that he was worried it may be hard to find workers to run the Elbow Lake facility, especially if the jobs are part-time.

Thompson and Christianson explained that their facility would be hiring mostly full-time workers at higher than minimum wage.

“No one questions the need for this facility,” said Johnson, adding that the county needs to have a public hearing before granting the tax abatement. That public hearing can only happen after the public hearing notice has been published in the newspaper for two weeks.

He added that according to rule 18A of the county’s tax abatement policy, a tax abatement cannot be granted once construction starts. The Hoffman senior living facility that asked for tax abatement was completed before an application was submitted.

Thompson and Christianson said they understood, and all agreed that asbestos removal, and demolition of the interior walls of the old hospital would not qualify as construction. But, once the demo work was done, the new roof needed to be installed before sheetrock, etc. could be put up inside, and that would be construction, so there was a reason to hurry.

“We would like to at least know your intent so we can keep going on the project,” said Thompson.

Johnson made a motion to suspend 18A until the December 5 Commissioner meeting, which will also serve as the legal public hearing. In that way, construction of the roof can start. His motion passed.

Johnson said he would want to see figures on anticipated employment and wages, as well as more information of Northern Oaks Management, Thompson and Christianson at that public hearing.

Other business
The commissioners agreed to abandon Ditch 3 Fork 1 so landowner Doug Olson can install a tile. Olson had the approval of other landowners in the ditch system, and said that this tile will not change the drainage flow. He said he needed the tile because the current open ditch split his 80 acre field into two 40 acre fields he cannot drive through.

The commissioners passed a motion to allow County Human Resources Director Ashley Hokanson to purchase a key card printer, and digital camera, needed for the new county office building’s key card lock system.

The commissioners agreed to contract with the West Central Minnesota Juvenile Center, Moorhead, next year, for $32,588, or one percent of their operating costs.

County Auditor Chad VanSanten thanked Barrett City Clerk Marita Rhude and four others for processing ballots during the recent general election. He said the group did an outstanding and professional job on the over 2,200 ballots cast in Grant County.

VanSanten said the ballots of two precincts will be processed by hand, on November 19, to check the accuracy of the counting machines.

Highway Engineer Tracey Von Bargen informed the board that the next public meeting concerning Highway #10 will be on December 11. At that meeting, alternatives will be presented on making the highway safer.

County Coordinator James Standish gave the commissioners the good news that the county had been awarded a $120,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society for Phase II of the Courthouse Decorative Elements project. Phase II will be to clean up, and restore the decorative elements on the main floor rotunda and basement floor of the courthouse. The grant will leave just around $40,000 left to complete the entire project. Standish said he hopes to apply for another grant from the Jeffers Family Foundation, or get the funds through unused funds left over from other projects, or a combination.

Standish also presented a report from the new organics recycling pilot program started in Elbow Lake. The report showed that the 18 residential organic recyclers recycled an average of 18.9 pounds per week of organics, including 160 pounds just last week, compared to 40 pounds on the first week of the project.

Standish said once commercial properties are added to the organic recycling project, the pounds per week should greatly increase.

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