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Council considers future of MTC

Public turnout high for meeting to discuss options set forth in recent study

 

February 10, 2022

Grace Moore

As people gather for a special meeting to discuss the options for the future of Moorcroft Town Center Wednesday night, the council chamber soon fills to standing room only.

Making some kind of headway in deciding on a realistic future for the Moorcroft Town Center (MTC) building was the subject visited by the MTC committee and the group who assisted in choosing the consulting company to conduct the study at last Wednesday night's special meeting of Moorcroft's town council. The meeting was also attended by several individuals who were interested in the outcome.

Clerk/Treasurer Cheryl Schneider explained the purpose of the gathering: "Our intent is just for the council to decide what's best for them. If it's not one of these three, what is it? Once the decision is made and approved, the actual cost of the chosen scenario will be ascertained and the study application concluded, including the reimbursement."

The options introduced by the study conducted by Ben Levenger of DownTown Redevelopment in the summer of 2021 were reexamined, with corresponding structural and funding possibilities and issues from each selection.

Guests were encouraged to take pictures of the slides presented or request an electronic copy of the entire 47-page document for a more extensive perusal. The scenarios were discussed in depth at the public meeting made available at the time the study was complete.

A tally for the public input provided by those who attended the previous public meeting, as well those who completed the surveys, was requested to better understand what the residents involved wanted.

"If you tally it all up," Councilman Dale Petersen checked his record, "The majority [of the votes] are to keep the gym, the lunch room, the senior center and that little wing." This is scenario #2.

Concern was expressed that if the town seeks grant funding to facilitate this option, the structure left standing will have to be brought up to state standard, i.e. ADA compliance, heating, etc.

Mayor Ben Glenn and Councilman Petersen concurred with this assumption. Petersen expounded further, "I think the big elephant in the room is going to be the heating system – that old boiler. The boiler was installed in the late 1950s, but was refurbished for gas before being reverted back to coal in the 1990s."

The cost of replacing this system was tentatively set at $500,000, according to Schneider.

Cindy Mosteller told the governing body that, if scenario #2 was approved, the county commissioners would be willing to work with Moorcroft to move the library into part of the remaining building if Town Hall was not moved into the space. Nevertheless, Glenn still hopes to move town hall into that area.

"I think that, if we were in the building, we can manage the building, still rent the building, we can function out of it, but it has to be what's best for the town," he said.

Petersen then asked if there were any other suggestions members of the audience would like to put forward and, after considering all the information given, local business owner Chuck Massie offered a fourth option not previously considered: privatization.

"What if there was interest in a private party purchasing that, how would we go about doing that?" he asked.

Glenn said that this option needed further discussion. Massie expressed his determination to have privatization as an alternative, saying, "There needs to be a scenario #4, though – selling to a private party."

Schneider shared some information regarding this topic: "If that north end was demolished and they put in senior housing, [Levenger] said you could go to USDA and some of those other entities that fund those [things] for grant money. I do believe an individual can do that... for rebuilding, not demolition."

"There are not as many issues when it is a nonprofit that takes over the building," she continued, "But if it's private, there are some ways to do that, but it's very tricky. [Levenger] would advise the town to wait for that individual to come forth and then start a conversation about that."

"I kind of like what I hear Chuck saying," Petersen opined. "If we did have somebody who would like to buy that, my assumption would be that their goal would be what our goal is – to still have a gym that the public can use and maybe private industry is the best way to go. I don't know where the town's going to get the money to do any of it. There are so many problems; I don't know how we'd pay for that."

"I think," Massie suggested, "you guys on the city council should figure out the minimum amount you need to get rid of that and let the public know."

Massie asked for a general dollar amount the town has lost since accepting ownership of the building in 2015. Not having the exact numbers at hand; Schneider was able to give only last year's amount, which was the greatest annual loss to date of approximately $47,000.

With the amount going up every year for the last six, Massie quickly estimated about $350,000 being allocated for the MTC building thus far.

This money does not come from the enterprise accounts (water, sewer, garbage), Schneider assured the audience; rather, it is allocated from the general fund.

Massie spoke to the subsidizing of this building, "Does the city really need to be in the business of doing what they're doing? Especially, if there's an annual deficit that looks like it could potentially increase unless something huge happens, it doesn't look like it's a workable deal."

Glenn shared his reasons for not supporting the council ridding themselves of this responsibility before. The mayor admitted his concern was not knowing what the planned use would be if the property was purchased by the private sector.

"Then, we have no control. It's for the community. It is a gym for the community; we've done that for the community," he said.

"I guess Randy hit it on the head, it does cost us money to have this thing, but it does give the food pantry a spot and it does give kids a spot in the gym, lets them have overflow basketball games and once we're not in control of that, when it's private, then it's probably funded a little different because private businesses need to make money."

The town subsidizes the senior center, food pantry, thrift store and the Wolves' Den within the MTC.

With scenario #2 and the added privatization scenario publically advocated, the governing body will authorize Schneider to send their choice on to Levenger to be returned as a resolution to be approved by the town and then the $42,250 for the study will be reimbursed by the USDA.

 
 

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