City to purchase former Elks Club

The Webster City City Council approved and authorized the purchase of an iconic Webster City building Monday night, which will then be eligible for a facade rehabilitation using approved Community Development Block Grant funds.

The council, on a three to one vote with Councilman Jim Talbot voting against the proposal, approved the purchase of the former Elks Club building in the 700 block of Second St. Councilman Brian Miller was absent from the meeting.

The building is owned by Merlyn Tungesvik and will be purchased at a cost of $40,000, with $15,000 of payment contingent upon the building being cleared of Tungesvik’s stored items.

Community Vitality Director Lindsay Henderson said that a recent engineering inspection indicated the building, built in 1906, was structurally sound but intervention would soon be needed to repair the facade to prevent moisture penetration.

Henderson explained that the cost for the facade repairs could come from the CDBG funding.

“The Iowa Economic Development Authority has given us the directive to spend down some CDBG funds that we’ve had for sometime,” she said. “Some of those funds are going to be revolving back in over the next five years. They no longer want us to do revolving loans, they would like it spent in their entirety.”

Henderson explained that the city has had the monies since the early 1990s and have been asked to come up with a new plan to spend it down. Seventy percent of the funds must be used for Low-Moderate Income purposes — to encourage job development or rehabilitate low-moderate income housing. Henderson said that with the loan MaryAnn’s specialty foods earlier this year, that portion of the grant has been met. The remaining 30 percent can be used for what is called “slum and blight elimination.”

“That’s the federal government wording, not ours,” she said. The slum and blight funding can be used on a spot or area basis, must be used for full facade restoration and cannot be used for interior rehabilitation.

Henderson the two-story structure needs some work inside, but the original tin ceiling and much of the woodwork is still intact.

Once the facade work was completed, the building could be sold to an interested party, or perhaps be turned over to a volunteer board similar to HERO.

Councilman Logan Welch said he would “enthusiastically” move to approve the purchase. 

“It just makes sense for the city to acquire this piece of property for historical reasons and downtown reasons,” Welch said.

Talbot said he had some reservations, mentioning the city’s previous forays into real estate transactions. 

“We’ll be able to offer up a building where half of the work is done,” Henderson said. “The likelihood of a private party coming in and acquiring this building and taking it the rest of the way is far greater than if we did nothing at all.”

“It’s not the city’s intention to hold onto the building,” she said.

Henderson said Tungesvik has agreed to clear the building out by Sept. 3.

The council also approved a resolution establishing that the Mid Iowa Development Association Council of Governments would provide technical assistance to administer the CDBG.

View this article as it originally appeared in the Daily-Freeman Journal.

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