County committee to study possible Petco property purchase
By Matt Persike
For the Star Journal
Members of the Oneida County Board’s Petco Study Committee convened for the first time Monday morning. With much of the former Drs. Foster & Smith campus for sale, the eight-person committee was formed to explore the possibility of the county purchasing the property.
County Board member and committee Chairperson Bob Mott described the committee’s assignment as essentially to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of Oneida County purchasing the Petco building and property. “Our job, I think, is to gather information and formulate a report, and try to do it in 60 days.”
Stacey Johnson, executive director of the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation, said her interest in being part of the committee is to see if a group of people could together investigate the best options for the building, whether that is for the county or another business.
“Collectively, we can make the decision for the direction of that building,” Johnson said. “If that building turns out not to be what’s in the best interest of the county, we’ll have that information to help facilitate a private sale.”
The 60 days of information gathering may go by quickly. A pamphlet handed out at the meeting features dozens of “areas of study” necessary for the eventual report to be thorough. The investigation will include determining the value of the property and the cost of the purchase, as well as the costs of remodeling and updating. Johnson said she came up with the 60-day deadline as a “sunset period,” and a reasonable time-frame to respond to Petco.
In addition to Mott and Johnson, committee members include board members Tom Kelly, Russ Fischer, Mike Timmons and Jack Sorensen, along with Oneida County Highway Commissioner Bruce Stefonek and facilities director Lu Ann Brunette.
If the committee’s report is to ultimately offer an accurate picture of costs, benefits and possible uses of the building, it will have a few hoops to jump through. For example, an appraisal of the property could be problematic without comparable properties in the area.
“The appraisal is done for purposes of taxation,” Sorensen said, “It is not done for purposes of purchase.”
Johnson added that, “The appraised value is going to be quite different from what they would sell the building for right now.” The property is currently assessed at $4 million, but Johnson said that is likely not going to be the listing price.
Members will examine the potential of return through possible rentals of areas not used by the county, as well as how the county can potentially be a landlord — a situation which Johnson calls possible, but “sticky.” Other objects of investigation will include the purchase price and associated costs, the cost to operate, the condition of the building, the cost to remodel, and the suitability of the building for the highway department and possibly other departments.
Members mostly agreed that their motivation for joining the Petco Study Committee came from an interest in exploring the options. “The main reason I am here is to see what we can do to improve our services,” said Tom Kelly, a 12-year Rhinelander City Council alderman and five-year county board supervisor.
The committee intends to meet “as often as needed” and is expected to report to the administration committee by May 15.