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The city of Independence made an offer to purchase this building at 281 S. Second St. to relocate the Independence Heritage Museum.

INDEPENDENCE — Independence city staff made an offer on the property at 281 S. Second St., with the intention moving the museum there.

City manager Tom Pessemier made the announcement at the Aug. 27 Independence City Council meeting, where he also told councilors the city is looking at different ways to pay for the building, since the purchase is not in the budget that was approved for this fiscal year.

The 6,575-square-foot building was listed for $449,000.

Pessemier said the city made an offer that was $25,000 less than the asking price.

After an executive session at the end of the July 23 meeting, the city council voted for the city manager to look for properties to move the existing museum.

Councilor Jennifer Ranstrom-Smith voted against it.

Pessemier said they looked at other properties, too.

“We had our broker compile a list,” he said. “We also used our internal knowledge of different things we know are out there to take a look at what might work better than the current situation.“

He said looking at the other properties was helpful, but “both fiscally and as well as space-wise, (281 S. Second St. is) almost exactly what the museum could use.”

Still, the city would have to make some expensive improvements, such as complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Pessemier said.

“I think that we’re hoping that a lot of that can be offset by grants and donations, but we’ll have to see how that goes as we move forward,” Pessemier said.

He reiterated that this will come back to council.

“We may very well find out in our investigations that we don’t want to move forward with this deal. This certainly isn’t anything that’s ‘done’ in any sense of the word, but certainly we’re taking steps to move this forward,” Pessemier said.

He said the city has 45 days “to complete our investigations.”

They will look at structural components of the building and will have an environmental assessment done.

Selling land to buy building

The council voted 4-2 to sell two properties on Polk Street. The two undeveloped lots are located on Polk Street between Ash and Walnut streets.

Councilors Shannon Corr and Ranstrom-Smith voted no.

Pessemier said the money from selling the two lots, which were donated in 2007, could help pay for the new building that was not in the budget.

“We’ll have to allocate those monies at some point in time if we decide to move forward,” Pessemier said. “I want to talk about some of the things that we’ve looked at, and obviously, we have an existing facility that we can sell. There’s still a gap between what we believe we can sell that existing building for, and that’s still a pretty squishy number, so what that would be versus what we would be paying for this new facility.”

The two lots were given to city by Boise Cascade, he said.

“(They) were intended to be developed some day, and we’re suggesting that if we put those up on the market and we sell those, we can narrow that gap down to something that’s very small, if any gap at all,” Pessemier said. “That would make this end up being as cost-neutral as possible.”

The city council will have final approval on the sale. There will be a public hearing.

Corr asked about some of the information in the memo that accompanied the resolution.

“It says that the intent that Boise Cascade had was that we would sell the property,” Corr said. “Is that written anywhere? Is it transcribed anywhere?”

Pessemier said he hasn’t found documents that say that, but that was his understanding.

Mayor John McArdle said he was around when the transaction happened.

“There were no restrictions placed,” he said. “They were just getting out of the community. They were closing their operation and they had some property across the street that had some interesting houses on it at that point.”

Ranstrom-Smith said, “It’s unfair to say they gave it to us to turn around and sell it, I would say.”

When he presented the resolution to council, Pessemier changed the language.

“I’ll just say they donated the properties in 2007 and leave it at that,” he said. “Right now, the economy is good for residential. It would be a good time. We’re seeing high value for residential lots in general.”

Pessemier said they would “get approval (from the council) on any conditions we want to put on the property to make sure it is transacted and developed in a way that is acceptable to the city.”

While Pessemier said city staff did not have a definite value of the properties, he said it’s in excess of $100,000.

Corr said she was in favor of naming the lots as surplus, but wanted to wait to see how the museum situation moves forward before selling.

Ranstrom-Smith and Councilor Kathy Martin-Willis agreed.

“I think that this is a wise move to make at this time to not only surplus, but put the property up for sale,” said Councilor Marilyn Morton. “It eases budget restrictions if we have future movement on the museum, and I think it’s the best and highest use at this point.”

“I just feel like if we have budget concerns about the museum, maybe we should back off on that,” Ranstrom-Smith said.

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