At public hearing, Sidney City Council discusses recent appraisal and purchase contract
By Joshua Wood, Stevenson Newspapers
The City of Sidney is close to an agreement on the purchase of Elks Lodge 1894. The purchase of the property is an integral part of a project which would renovate the building into a meeting and event venue for both private and public use.
At the February 14 meeting of Sidney's governing body, City Manager David Scott told the council he had received an appraisal of the property from Brandt Appraisal Company. According to Scott, a previous purchase agreement listed the property at $99,000 with the amount being a placeholder of sorts.. This, said Scott, was due to Nebraska State Statute.
"The reason we put that amount in there is the (state) statutes do not allow us to purchase anything that has not been appraised for anything over $100,000," said Scott.
Indeed, according to Nebraska Statute 13-403, "no political subdivision shall purchase, lease-purchase, or acquire for consideration real property having an estimated value of one hundred thousand dollars or more unless an appraisal of such property has been performed by a certified real property appraiser."
The appraisal for the property at 1040 Jackson Street came back at $174,000.
The process to revitalize and renovate Elks Lodge 1894 began nearly three years ago. In April 2020, the City of Sidney was awarded $415,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds with a $125,000 match for the project. The City of Sidney engaged with Joseph R Hewgley & Associates to conduct the bidding process and the construction portion of the project.
By December 2021, however, the City had gone through three unsuccessful bidding cycles before being able to sole source the project. This meant the City could award the project to a contractor without going through the bidding process. Eventually, the municipality engaged with Steele Construction, which would locate the needed subcontractors for the project.
As of February 14, according to Scott, the total cost of the project had come to $2.3 million. Elks Lodge 1894, despite all its fundraising efforts, had only enough money to match the CDBG grant. Though there have been some potential large donors for the project, the slow progress on the project has prevented funds from being donated.
With a stall on fundraising and rising costs due to inflation and supply chain breakdowns, the conversation between the City of Sidney and Elks Lodge 1894 led to the potential of the municipality buying the building and leasing it back to the organization.
Though a purchase agreement had been drafted by the City of Sidney's legal counsel and sent to the attorney for Elks Lodge 1894, it seemed negotiations were still ongoing as of February 14. In addition to the purchase agreement, there was also discussion of a lease agreement between the two parties.
Anita Pennell, a trustee of the local Elks Lodge, explained to the council that while review of the purchase agreement seemed slow, it was for good reason. Pennell explained anything involving the building had to go through the Grand Lodge, through which the local lodge had its charter. From the purchase of the building by the City of Sidney to the leasing of it back to the lodge, any misstep could result in the Grand Lodge revoking the charter for Elks Lodge 1894.
"We are wanting to do the best that we can do for our lodge and for our community. We know that the city, the community, needs a place," said Pennell. "A place where we can have events, a place that we can be proud of, a place that people want to come to."
Mayor Brad Sherman appeared to sympathize with Pennell, stating that the process had seven interested parties involved. Sherman said the Elks Lodge, its members and the Grand Lodge had their interests, the Sidney City Council and its constituents had their interests, and so did the attorneys and contractors involved.
The next meeting of the Sidney City Council will be at 7 p.m. on February 28 at Sidney City Hall.