County to counter offer Kwik Trip on highway location
At a special meeting held last Thursday morning concerning Kwik Trip’s offer to purchase the Oneida County highway facilities, the county board decided to counter that offer not with money, but time.
Kwik Trip is offering the county $2.3 million for the 14-acres on Kemp St. where the highway department is located. In that offer they requested a counter offer by Monday, Aug. 25.
Hans Zietlow, director of real estate for Kwik Trip, came to the meeting to answer questions about the transaction.
“We like the location there and would plan on building a bigger store than the one we will be opening on the west side of the city this week,” said Zietlow.
Blaine Oborn, Rhinelander’s city administrator, also came to the meeting and explained to board members the advantages of establishing a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) at the location, possibly opening up the opportunities for other businesses to grow there if the Kwik Trip is built. TIF districts use future gains in taxes to subsidize current improvements on a piece of property.
In addition, a committee consisting of county employees put together a preliminary report, outlining the possible costs of building a new highway facility and the costs to repair the current one. Estimates ranged from $6 to $14 million to build new. That committee consisted of Freeman Bennett, highway commissioner, Mike Romportl, land information director, Margie Sorenson, finance director, Brian Desmond, corporation counsel, Lu Ann Brunette, building and grounds facilities director and Lisa Charbarneau, human resources director.
The county owns a 35-acre piece of property located just north of Pizza Haven on Lake Julia Rd. that is being considered for the new home of the highway department. A conceptual site and building plan was reviewed with this site in mind by the committee.
There were numerous concerns with the current highway facilities including that the buildings are too small to house and repair the larger trucks used to maintain roads in this day and age.
Also , while the office part of the building was updated in 2001, the main garage was constructed in 1955. Little insulation was used and the cost to heat and cool the facility is a budget concern. (The average heating and electric costs are close to $40,000 a year.) Other factors mentioned in the committee report included safety concerns for washing and welding county equipment, limited space, poor lighting, poor storm sewer drainage, restrooms for women and the fact there is no fire suppression sprinkler system in the facility.
Preliminary cost estimates were obtained to correct these problems and more, coming in at $2 to $4 million. In the past several years the highway department has save approximately $350,000 to start addressing some of these issues.
During his presentation Zietlow explained to the board that Kwik Trip scouts out properties for their stores and if they feel they have found a good one they are willing to wait.
“I wanted to purchase a piece of property for one of our stores in 1999 and we finally bought it this year,” said Zietlow. “We do lots of research on a location so when we decide to build there we focus on that property and we feel the current highway department property would be a perfect fit for us.”
With that in mind the board decided to do more research and get numbers that were more firm. They approved appointing a five member ad hoc committee to study the offer and consequences of accepting it. They also approved countering the offer by asking for at least four months to do more research, requesting an answer from Kwik Trip on that offer by next month.