by April Scheinoha
Despite an 11th hour offer from another buyer, the Thief River Falls City Council continues to move forward with the sale of the former HDR Engineering building. The council unanimously approved the matter at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 19.
That decision came after the council approved selling the city-owned building during a special council meeting three weeks earlier. The council approved selling the building, located east of the Thief River Falls Fire Hall, for $55,000 to Anton Bergee and Jonny Artmann. They plan to renovate the building into a brewery and hope to open in October 2020.
“Since that time, we’ve had another offer come in after the public was notified about the sale of the building,” said Mayor Brian Holmer, who noted the purchase agreement hadn’t yet been signed.
Joseph “Yose” Haj and Cainan Langlie provided the other offer. Initially, they offered $65,000. At the council meeting, they provided a new offer of $75,000. Haj and Langlie planned to use the building for office space and other potential unidentified uses.
With the second offer and the unsigned purchase agreement, the council was able to rescind its earlier decision to sell the building to Bergee and Artmann if it chose to do so. At a Public Works Committee meeting six days earlier, City Attorney Delray Sparby also indicated that the council wasn’t required to put the building up for public bidding.
At the council meeting, Haj said they weren’t pleased that the city hadn’t listed the property for sale. When they asked why the city hadn’t listed the property, Haj said the Public Works Committee told them that the city didn’t want to spend money to list the property. Haj, who sells real estate in the Fargo-Moorhead area, said it doesn’t cost the seller anything to list the property. He noted that the city may have had more buyers and may have received more money if it had listed the property.
Council members later pointed out that prospective buyers have looked at the property. They indicated that about 30 potential buyers have toured the building with realtors despite it not being listed for sale.
Haj also asked how the price was determined. He noted that the property hadn’t been appraised.
Haj, a former City Council member who now lives in West Fargo, N.D., further indicated that city leaders had previously discussed expanding the Fire Hall next door. He noted the Public Works Committee has said that the city has considered building a satellite Fire Hall if needed.
Council member Rachel Prudhomme replied that the council purchased the former ITS Auto building across the street from the two buildings years ago. The former ITS Auto building now stores firefighting equipment.
Council member Don Sollom raised concerns about possibly rescinding the Oct. 22 resolution to sell the building. He said Bergee and Artmann have already purchased items for their brewpub and rescinding the resolution would cause a financial hardship for them.
A brewpub also corresponds with plans for the area. Holmer noted that the brewery plans coincided with the city’s downtown development plan and its Comprehensive Plan.