Controversial County Purchase Moves Ahead

A Formal process of purchasing property for a new county roads department maintenance complex to be on the next county board meeting agenda. The board committee working on finding land in the preferred area has identified a 15 acre site and a willing seller.

The Cassgram reports the site is off the west side of Highway 50 south of Highway 1. It’s behind the Westover Trucking building. The current owners are Steve and Bonnie Meyer.

Cass County Commissioners Dan Henry and Duane Murdoch thought they were close to a deal a couple of months ago. The county board approved purchase options on a 78 acre site (with about 68 tillable acres) and on a 34 acre site. The plan was for the county to purchase the 78 acres that would then be transferred to the owner of the 34 acre site, a plan that offered some tax advantages to the seller and also gave the 34 acre owner twice the farmland. The county’s outlay would have been just under $650,000 with that plan. However, that deal fell apart when a member of the family estate ownership of the 34 acre tract refused to sign over his interest in the property.

Henry and Murdoch, the committee members, again began scouring the area within two miles of the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 1. That was identified as the preferred location for a new roads department maintenance facility last spring. It was Murdoch who approached the Meyers about their property.

(‘Plan B’ was to locate the shop and expanded roads department storage area on the 27-acre roads department main office and recycle center property west of Mynard. However, fill dirt would be needed and those costs were estimated to be over $300,000 for the full complex.)

The working agreement is for the county to pay $300,000 for the Meyer property. The option on the 78-acre site is also still part of the deal. Henry said the county would pay the Meyers directly but the Meyers would also be assuming the county’s option on the 78 acres and then buying directly from the seller of that property. That was a key part of the deal, he added.

“This ground lays good,” said Henry. There is a natural gas line through the corner of the property too with an easement that only affects building on that corner, there can still be ground storage on that corner.

The necessary dirt work on the site is “minimal,” said Roads Superintendent Lenny Thorne.

Thorne is now leaning toward recommending two buildings, one for the mechanics’ shop and one for storage.

There is enough land for a third building on the property too, something that could be important should paid ambulance service ever come to the county and a central location is needed, said Henry.

“I think it is a really good location, but I know some people are going to question the price” at $20,000 an acre, he said.

The committee had also spoke with a willing seller of property on the east side of Highway 50 in the same general area but decided the lay of the land on the west side is more conducive and usable. The price would have been higher on the east side.

There was a unanimous board vote at this week’s meeting to have a title company prepare the purchase agreement and bring it before the board at the December 17th meeting but it was later ascertained the vote will need to be redone because the roads department property was a last-minute addition to the agenda as an “information only” item. An appraisal will need to be completed. A public hearing on the purchase will be held during a future county board meeting.

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