City Council Approves Sale of 812 13th Avenue Building
After Public Comments, Council Approves 5-0
August 31, 2023
SIDNEY--Another special session of the City of Sidney Council was held at Sidney High School on August 22 at 5:30 p.m. A large turnout of approximately 125 citizens attended the meeting, which featured the sale of 812 13th Avenue, with many of them voicing their opinions on the sale of the city-owned property.
The meeting's public hearing portion opened with City Manager David Scott going over the history of the building at 812 13th Avenue, how the city became involved and purchased the building in July of 2019, the lease to UST Global and the termination of the lease.
Scott detailed the benefits of the deal for the City of Sidney, saying the City will receive the $575,000 WTA (Worldwide Trophy Adventures) building adjacent to the hospital to house the Sidney Police Department, $150,000 in cash, the waiver of the remaining LB840 grant to WTA ($270k) and the south parking lot of the 812 13th Ave. property, valued at $92,000. WTA will get ownership of the 812 13th Avenue building. Scott said that the deal is a "win-win" for all parties involved, as it gets the City of Sidney out from under the ownership of 812 13th Ave, and gets a new modern facility for the Police Department. WTA gets a prime location locally, with room to grow their operations.
Scott noted that the City of Sidney had reviewed other options, such as finding another buyer or selling the building at auction, but no other option was as attractive as the deal proposed by WTA.
Mayor Brad Sherman asked Scott if the deal would increase taxes on the residents of Sidney and Cheyenne County and Scott emphatically said no. The building will now be in private hands, the outstanding TIF bond would no longer be the responsibility of the City of Sidney, and the city would be able to collect property tax revenue on the building. Sherman then said he saw no downside to the deal, and then asked WTA's CEO Ryan Watchorn, who was seating in the auditorium with the rest of the public attendees, if he thought it was a good deal for WTA. Watchorn said, "We feel it's a good deal for us."
Public comments came next as residents were allowed three minutes each to comment, or voice their concerns. The first resident recalled when he was younger he had an opportunity to get out of a real estate deal and be able to break even on the transaction. He didn't accept the initial offer and tried for more money, then two and a half years later ended up selling the property at a loss. He stressed the deal should move forward. It was then asked if there was any interest in the current Police Department building. David Scott said there had been a couple of interested parties, but most likely the building would be put up for auction.
David Jansen then addressed the councilmen, asking about why there was a dramatic drop in appraisal value within a relatively short period of time. David Scott said the appraiser used the same valuation formula as used on the Bass Pro properties, and economic conditions and an abundance of commercial space due to the buildings along Route I-80 contributed to the loss of value. Jansen then asked the City Council to table the motion to sell 812 13th Avenue until the appraisal of the building was made public. he said that nobody knows what the building is really worth, and he had a hard time believing the appraised value went down 27% when the balance of the TIF bond went down and other building appraisals went up an average of 12%.
Ryan Watchorn was asked if he had a "drop dead" date on the deal if it was tabled. Watchorn said that it was not something he had thought about, but if the deal was tabled and delayed for any significant time, WTA would look elsewhere for its new headquarters.
About a half dozen more citizens addressed the council, with most being in favor of the deal. Many said the City of Sidney should not be in the real estate business, and never should have in the first place. Jaquelin Leef said that there was an error in the legal publication of the sale notices, and that the parking lot valued at $92,000 would need its own hearing due to being left out of the initial notices.
There was then some back-and-forth between Scott and an attendee over the amounts of time people were allowed to speak.
Sidney Police Chief Aikens approached the lectern, and in a short speech said that the new facility was necessary and would be a big improvement over their current facility. He also said that some people are concerned about moving the location away from downtown towards the hospital, and that concern would be valid if the were talking about the Fire Department. He noted the Police Department was mobile, and most officers are in their vehicles patrolling, so the actual location of the building wasn't that important.
Jeff Klare, City of Sidney Economic Director, addressed the City Council and all attendees at the end of the public comment portion of the meeting and said how he has been reading disparaging remarks about the City Council, the City Manager and the town of Sidney itself. "It makes me sick," he said. "Sidney is a great city with a great future and these types of remarks need to stop." The councilmen then gave their own comments, each pointing out the benefits of the deal. Mayor Sherman noted that he was on the council when the initial purchase of the building was approved. He commented that he felt like the purchase was in the best interests of the people of Sidney at the time, due to the sale of Cabela's and other economic challenges facing the city. However, when commenting on whether or not he would make a similar decision in the future, he said, "I will strongly consider not doing that again." His comment elicited chuckles from the assembled crowd.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:05, and the next meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on September 12 at City Hall.