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Board puts off buying 6th property for project

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GREENFIELD — With deals nearly finalized on buying five properties along Fourth Street for the Potts Ditch relocation project, city officials are now eyeing a sixth site to purchase and demolish for the summertime construction project.

The Greenfield Board of Works Tuesday discussed purchasing a two-story business at 218 N. State St. The structure – an old house-turned commercial property – houses Shelter Insurance and Village Style Shop.

With an appraised value of $140,000, city utility director Mike Fruth encouraged the board to make the offer immediately. But the board – which just decided two weeks ago to purchase five nearby houses for the project – held off on a decision, saying it was too quick to take action.

“This is not trying to put a kibosh on anything,” said board member Kelly McClarnon. “I just want time to review a … document.”

Greenfield is bracing to spend roughly $10 million to relocate the Potts Ditch watershed throughout the downtown district. A downtown tunnel is undersized for the amount of water it handles during heavy rainfall, and homes in the downtown district occasionally flood.

Late last month, the board decided to make offers to five landowners along Fourth Street just west of State Street. While the city has purchased strips of land before for construction projects, this is the first time entire properties – including buildings – have been purchased.

The city offered a total of $265,000 for the homes at 20, 34, 35, 37 and 106 W. Fourth St., and Fruth said Tuesday that all property owners had accepted.

“It’s not a surprise,” Fruth added. “We had been discussing that with the homeowners for several weeks.”

City officials say the demolition of the houses could mean a smoother construction period and possibly a savings in construction costs.

The structure at 218 N. State St. also must go, Fruth said. Engineer drawings show that the 18-foot by 8-foot box that will be installed there is too large to fit between the properties at 218 and 214 N. State St., so the commercial structure needs to be razed.

The building was appraised at $140,000, but board member Dan Reigelsperger said he was concerned the city would be offering more than the land’s assessed value – a tool county officials use to determine tax bills.

Reigelsperger suggested since the assessed value was around $110,000, perhaps the city should get another appraisal done. The assessed value of the property is actually $118,300, according to county records.

But Fruth said the city should take into account the appraised value, not the assessed value, which is generally lower.

“The assessed value, while it uses a market approach, I’m nowhere convinced those are market values,” he said.

Board member Brent Lawson said he was concerned about the high cost of property acquisition in general. A budget for the Potts Ditch relocation project had set aside $300,000 for property acquisition; with the offers to the five homes on Fourth Street and the additional offer for 218 N. State St., Lawson pointed out the city is already more than $100,000 over budget, and the cost for demolitions hasn’t been taken into consideration yet.

Fruth, however, said the property acquisition budget of $300,000 was just a “wild guess” early in the project planning stage. It’s still undetermined how much the project will cost to build; bids, which will contain extensive roadwork in the downtown district, are expected to come in April 22.

Lawson and Mayor Chuck Fewell voted in favor of making the offer to the owners of 218 N. State St., but McClarnon, Reigelsperger and Kathy Locke voted against it, suggesting Fruth come back in two weeks with the request again.

Fruth said after the meeting that the holdup shouldn’t delay construction.

Owners Tim and Jodie Barnett said they were disappointed the board held off on making them an offer.

“We’ve been on hold for so long,” Tim said, adding that originally city officials thought the building did not have to be demolished.

The couple doesn’t know where they will relocate their businesses, but said they’ve been cooperating with the city. They were disappointed when the board talked about making a lower offer based on the assessed value.

“We were not going to fight the $140,000; we were just going to go with it even though it was a little bit lower than we expected,” Jodie said.

“We’re just looking for a fair offer. We thought that was fair,” Tim added.

While bids will be opened April 22 for the construction of the project, construction will likely begin in late June and last through 2015. Fruth said the city will be working on a campaign to regularly inform the public of construction updates and road closures.

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