Posted Online: March 16, 2013, 11:08 pm
Some Cambridge residents question village's purchase of former grocery store building
Comment on this story
By Lisa Hammer, email@example.com
CAMBRIDGE — Some residents are questioning the village board's February decision to pay $15,000 for the old Jack and Jill store building, when the previous owner paid but $10 for it last year.
Mayor Jim Crouch said this week it is important that the village control the building as it continues its long-standing attempt to attract a grocery store to town.
The board in February voted 4-1 to buy the grocery store building from Linda Noord, who operated the former Spartan's Discount store from a separate building. Ms. Noord hoped to move into the larger building but instead closed Spartan's.
According to documents in the county recorder's office, Ms. Noord paid $10 in April, 2012 to Rick Brammer, executor of the estate of Wayne Brammer, former owner/operator of Wayne's Super Valu.
Rick Brammer said he is not unhappy that Ms. Noord made money, but noted his family offered the property to the village for free before giving it to Ms. Noord. He said the family thought someone would have a better chance of success in Cambridge if they got the building for nothing. He said his family also paid up taxes so that when she took it over there was no debt.
"Our family was trying to help out the town," he said.
Village administrator Dwaine Van Meenen said the board discussed the offer at length before recommending that the Brammer family give the building to Ms. Noord.
"The board felt that if we had acquired the building it would have put us in the position of directly competing with a local business owner which was not our goal."
What has changed, he said, is that it is now clear Ms. Noord's plans will not bear fruit.
Mayor Jim Crouch said, "What she had in it doesn't really matter."
The building's assessed value has fallen from $38,602 in 2009 to $23,499 for 2012, according to Henry County assessment records. That would put the actual market value at $70,490.
The property was appraised two months ago for $70,000, Mr. Van Meenen said.
Mayor Crouch said he believes a small number of people are upset about the purchase. He said in addition to the person who attended the February board meeting to complain, three other people have talked to him about the issue.
Cambridge resident and former village trustee Cat White is one who opposes the purchase. She said what the board is doing is "not helping the village."
"It's absolutely ridiculous to pay $15,000 for a property that the original owners tried to give them for free, and the person that you bought it from just paid a minimal amount, nowhere near that," she said. "It's a bad use of taxpayer dollars." (The actual purchase price, once various liens were deducted, was $12,773.53, according to Mr. Van Meenen)
Mr. Brammer said he is surprised the village didn't drive a harder bargain with Ms. Noord, given officials knew what she paid for the building.
The mayor, however, said it's people's right to make money off property they own, and the village board felt that as an ongoing part of getting a new grocery store, they had to have control of the property.
"That's why we bought it," he said, adding that Cambridge has many people in town who don't like driving to other towns to shop, and businesses all need each other to feed off of. He said if a private investor shows up, the town won't want to wait six or seven months to acquire the property.
"We had an opportunity to purchase it and that's what we decided to do," he said.
He said anytime anybody has a question about village matters, he would encourage them to attend village meetings, or call the village office and talk to either Mr. Van Meenen or him. He said he is at the office a lot, or people can leave their name and number, and he'll return the call.
Trustee Troy Coziahr, the only "nay" vote to the sale, said his concern was less the purchase price and more about the full costs associated with the building including inspections and asbestos removal.
The remaining board members said they felt asbestos removal would be negligible. Mr. Coziahr said he didn't think what Ms. Noord had paid was an issue.
"The American way, buy low, sell high. That's not an issue for me," he said.