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LETTER: St. Croix land sale was a steal

To the Editor:

I read in this paper, the buyer of most of the county farm didn't expect to get it, thinking it would go for more.

Investors paid a low $5,000 to $7,600 farm acreage price for land zoned commercial industrial already in the city. Both indicators, this property sold too low and prematurely before the new Stillwater Bridge is built which will spur development up the Highway 64 corridor to New Richmond.

The county netted a mere $3.3 million for these 550 acres potentially to be annexed into New Richmond. No surprise, auctioning it off with no appraisal and no minimum bid.

A wiser plan would have been to expand and upgrade the 911 center, build the new self-sustaining nursing home, remodel the current one into offices, and move Health and Human Services (HHS) staff only one time, next door to this repurposed office space. The vacated HHS building could have been demolished later when the county could afford it.

Costs to lease HHS office space, and to eventually construct a new HHS building, would be eliminated. HHS could be kept where 50 percent of the residents receiving services reside. Although this is an obvious, less expensive alternative, it was not considered nor presented to the St. Croix County Board by the administrator. 

Instead the HHS staff will be relocated, the current facilities demolished, and the 911 center expanded and upgraded, costing up to $9 million. To that, add leasing 18,000 square feet for displaced HHS staff for up to five years, and building a new HHS building, for who knows how much.

Proceeds from this sale covers little of the real cost of these projects. Bonding or dipping into county investment reserves will be required for most of it. Who will bear the cost of this poorly thought out plan? Taxpayers.

Suzanne Van Mele