If accepted, appraisal will decide outcome

The Rosepine Town Council has moved to protect its interest in property it would like to have for a new wastewater treatment plant site.

The two parcels, totaling about 16 acres, are attracting interest from potential buyers and Town Attorney Steven Oxenhandler on Thursday night outlined action the council needed to take to avoid being on the outside looking in.

Replacing the current plant is a critical issue, and securing a site is a vital step as the town moves to line up financing — possibly through a USDA loan, less likely through state capital outlay, or otherwise.

Bottom line, Oxenhandler told the council, is that after lengthy discussions with the property owner it is apparent the town needs to act quickly. He said the city’s consulting engineers, Meyer Group, recommended reaching a buy-sell agreement, using a third party the firm works with to piece the offer together.

Councilman B.J. Bjornberg wondered why the town could not use the realty firm that has already done some work on the project, saying he was uncomfortable with the shift that would mean the town’s agent would not be paid (through commission) for its work.

After some discussion, the council authorized the engineering firm’s recommended agent to work with the town’s agent and the city attorney to reach details on the buy-sell agreement offer with Mayor Donna Duval.

As Oxenhandler pointed out, the buy-sell agreement does not buy the property. Assuming the owner accepts the agreement, it does commit both parties to a transaction if the price offered measures up in the appraisal process.

The attorney noted that state law prohibits a governmental entity form paying more for property than its appraised value. Whatever offer the city makes in the buy-sell cannot exceed the appraised value, otherwise it is void.

Some council members questioned whether the asking price for the property is too high in relation to other property values in the town.

Oxenhandler said an appraisal would answer that question as far as the town’s authority to purchase is concerned. That process takes some time, hence the recommendation to proceed now with the buy-sell.

Councilman Jeff Solinski said “the appraisal is going to drive the train” and said he thought the town needed to make a buy-sell offer at or close to the asking price.

Councilman Damon Johnson asked if the owners had to accept the offer. Oxenhandler said no, but that if it is accepted, then it is binding provided it does not exceed the appraisal.