Village plans to buy old Jr. High

Posted 6/14/22

Hope is to redevelop blighted property By Sarah Nigbor ELLSWORTH – The Village of Ellsworth plans to purchase the former Ellsworth Junior High building at 254 S. Chestnut St. for a total of $25,000 …

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Village plans to buy old Jr. High


Hope is to redevelop blighted property

By Sarah Nigbor

ELLSWORTH – The Village of Ellsworth plans to purchase the former Ellsworth Junior High building at 254 S. Chestnut St. for a total of $25,000 using a portion of its American Rescue Plan Act funds, as revealed by Village President Becky Beissel at the June 7 Ellsworth Village Board meeting. The sale is scheduled to close Aug. 1.

Several village residents attended the meeting after a Facebook post on the Ellsworth, WI Community Happenings page encouraged residents to attend the meet – ing. The poster, Lisa Olson, said she had no intention of starting a storm of misinformation and negative comments; rather, she wanted to let people know the topic is being discussed by the village board.

While the property was on the June 7 agenda, first in regards to approving a presentation to the Pierce County ARPA Ad Hoc Committee and second, during a closed session, the board actually approved to extend a purchase agreement to the building’s current owners at the May 2 board meeting.

Residents brought up the junior high in the middle of the department head reports, at which time Beissel attempted to shut down the discussion.

“The Facebook post was not right because we’re not discussing next steps,” Beissel said. “We’re going to be really happy to have people tell us what they think and thoughts they have.”

However, during department head reports was not the time nor place, she added.

One member of the group questioned the board’s transparency, since the topic was listed under a closed session. Another said the village should not be involved in purchasing the property at all.

“The deal is not done until the deal is done,” Beissel said, before trying to restore order.

Trustee Dale Hines reassured residents that answers to their questions will be forthcoming, but the public needs to be patient as the wheels of municipal government slowly turn.

“Right now, we’re in a zone where we can’t really publicly talk about much of anything on it,” Hines said.

Village attorney Bob Loberg said members of the public are welcome to attend village board meetings, which is a good way to be well-informed. Beissel agreed.

“Everyone is always welcome to come to the meetings. We encourage it,” she said. “There is going to be a lot of transparency and a lot of openness.”

Hines added that the property’s fate has been a topic for years. It’s been brought up by numerous residents and groups during the village’s recent comprehensive planning process, at town halls and in focus groups.

“There was extensive discussion about the fate of this property, which unfortunately lies within our jurisdiction,” Hines said. “I don’t agree that us taxpayers have to take care of it, but we have to take care of it because it’s never going to go away … It’s the part of 2021 vision we have in hindsight.”

As for paying for the demolition and redevelopment of the site (what might go there has not been decided yet), the village will use part of its ARPA funds, plans to ask the county for a portion of its ARPA funds, and is researching grant opportunities so the burden doesn’t fall on taxpayers.

“We’re shaking the bushes. We’re doing our best to find stuu. That’s why this is still in its infancy stages,” Beissel said.

For more information on the junior high property, see Beissel’s letter (sidebar).

Other business

• The comprehensive plan steering committee is working to review land use goals and maps. The plan will be ready for board review by July or August.

• The board approved restoration work to be done on Well No. 2 for an amount of $6,400. The work, required by the DNR every 10 years, will be performed by Mc Carthy Well Company.

• The board approved a contract with Water Conservation Services to perform a water system leak survey, costing $2,150.

• The board approved a contract with Nova Group not to exceed $2,235 for taking samples of air quality in the Village Hall.

• A payment of $189,826.08 for the Ellsworth Public Library BMO Bank remodel project at 388 W. Main St. was approved for the contractor, Market & Johnson.

• The Dog Park Committee presented a potential dog park plan to the Parks, Recreation & Development Committee on May 25. Summit Park was one location; the alternate was in the industrial park.

• The board went into closed session to discuss Outlot 1 at Crossing Meadows and 254 S. Chestnut St. After closed session, the board voted to sell Outlot 1 to Controlled Environmental Farming, as long as mutual easements are cancelled. The board also voted to hire Ehlers to move forward with making 254 S. Chestnut St. part of a blighted Tax Increment District. This would allow the village to fund the building demolition with hopefully no taxpayer cost.