Council Members Respond to Petition Launched to Stop Sale of 812 13th Avenue Property
September 14, 2023
SIDNEY--For some time now, there has been an ongoing discussion about the sale of 812 13th Avenue in Sidney to Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA) in exchange for their 122 Pole Creek Crossing building, cash and other considerations. The City of Sidney acquired 812 13th Avenue back in 2019, and leased it to UST. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and many business switched to remote work situations, UST was one of those companies and did not have a need for their space at 812 13th Avenue. The City of Sidney worked out an agreement to let UST out of their lease, and then went about looking to sell the property. Very quickly, the City was approached by WTA to acquire the building in exchange for 1200 Pole Creek Crossing, cash and other considerations.
A group of Sidney residents has been very vocal about the deal, from the quick agreement with WTA and the actual numbers involved in the sale. They have started a petition to block the sale, which if enough signatures are collected, would put a one-year "hold" on the transaction. It is assumed that year would be used to find another buyer that would offer a higher price for the 812 13th Avenue property than WTA had offered.
City of Sidney Mayor Brad Sherman spoke with the Sun-Telegraph about the petition and its possible effects if enough signatures are collected. It is believed 600 signatures would meet the threshold for the petition to successful. Sherman said, "I have no qualms about this petition, it is part of the political process. The biggest thing to remember about this deal is that the people of Sidney do not want the City to be owning property like office buildings. This deal we have worked on would get Sidney out from under the ownership of 812 13th Avenue without losing any money, and we would get a new building to house our police department and a parking lot to use for the KCTS shuttle service. We would also get rid of the TIF Bond that we're on the hook for, plus WTA would forfeit the rest of their LB840 money that they are entitled to. This is a good deal for Sidney as it gets us out from owning the building without losing any money, and we get a new home for our police department, which we desperately need."
Many Sidney residents recently received a postcard in the mail about the petition, which included some details of the transaction and where to go to sign the petition if you agreed with stopping the sale. The Sun-Telegraph also spoke with City of Sidney Councilman Brock Buckner about the petition. Buckner said, "A petition is democracy at work, and I love that it is democracy at work in Sidney. It is the people's right to petition the government when there is an issue they don't like. However, during this whole process, I believe that too many forgot the need to vocalize their opinions correctly, and not to engage in slander and defamation. It is not necessary."
Buckner continued, "Passing this petition would set back what the citizens want, which is to get the city out of owning properties. If this petition passes, the sale would delayed for a year. And if after a year there was no buyer or this group of people disapproved of the buyer? They could circulate another petition to hold up the sale for another year. This petition passing would force the city to carry this commodity and all the expenses involved, and would most likely result in a tax increase."
Buckner also took issue with some of the tactics and reasoning behind the opposition. He said, "When you look at the postcard they sent out to Sidney residents, they make it seem like were swapping the building for a much cheaper building, straight up. The postcard does not mention the cash payment and other terms involved, so it's not giving the citizens of Sidney an accurate representation of the deal. Also, this group is against moving the Police Department to the 1200 Post Road location. However, these are the same people that are also proposing the elimination of the Sidney Police Department by folding it in to the Cheyenne County Sheriff's Department. They already have space issues of their own, so how would adding the Sidney Police force to their facility help? It seems disingenuous to want to eliminate the Police Department, and then object to this deal because it moves the Police Department to a better building."
Mayor Sherman added, "I think that this group is doing more harm than good with their accusations. I understand that this is a divisive topic, but we should be able to deal with it without name calling and accusations."
Councilman Buckner also said, "This really isn't about two factions in the town disagreeing on something. It's about one group of people with strong opinions and the city government. And the city government is not set up to cater to just one group of people with strong opinions. Our goal is to move on from our identity as the former home of Cabela's and getting Sidney financially stable and not dependent upon one big business for our success."
The petitioners have thirty days to collect enough signatures to be submitted to hold the sale of 812 13th Avenue.