CITY OF PRINCETON: Divided Council fail to approve building buyer
City of Princeton issued the following announcement on June 5.
PRINCETON — The city of Princeton had two interested buyers who wished to buy the building that once housed the city’s recycling center at North Main Street and East Railroad Avenue, near the railroad tracks. However, because of a divided council that could not agree on which buyer to sell to, both sales proposals were lost Monday evening.
Council members were forced to decide whether to sell the building to Princeton High School to use as a bus barn, or to a commercial entity that was interested in using the space for warehouse and distribution of wholesale flashlights and worklights.
Cody Grandadam, CEO of Promier Products, recently purchased the former Ennis building located on Railroad Avenue, across the street from Allegion/LCN.
Grandadam is moving his flashlight business from the former WestClox building in Peru to Princeton, but the Ennis building is not large enough for his rapidly growing business. Therefore, he is looking to purchase a second location to house the warehousing and distribution needs of his products and had expressed interest in the former recycling center building.
Both entities had submitted proposals to purchase the building for $104,800 with plans to fix up the “eyesore.”
Princeton High School’s proposal stated it would pay the amount up front and put $200,000 worth of improvements into the structure.
Grandadam’s proposal was to buy the building through a five-year loan, from which the city would have earned about $14,000 in interest. Grandadam also had plans of making improvements to the structure; however, the cost of those improvements is unknown.
Princeton Mayor Joel Quiram and council member Jerry Neumann said they believed Promier Products would be the best suitor for the space, and stated their case during Monday’s council meeting.
They explained how it would boost Princeton’s economic development efforts, and would be in the best interest of the city and taxpayers to sell to Promier, because the business would bring in jobs and tax revenue, and encourage further business expansions in Princeton.
“I think that it’s great the high school wants to put $200,000 in the building, but in my opinion, I don’t feel that does much for the city other than providing an attractive building on Main Street,” Quiram said. “I think it’s a no-brainer that we sell to Promier.”
Council members Laura Favia, Ray Swanson and Ray Mabry believed PHS was the best suitor for the building.
Swanson believed a deal with the school district would have posed as a great example of two local government entities working together for the benefit of the community.
“I think it’s a good way for the city to extend an olive branch to another government entity and show that we can work with our other government entities,” he said.
Favia believes the city overlooks what the high school does for the local economy and listed a number of ways in which it contributes. She also pointed out how the school district had been eyeing the building for years.
PHS Superintendent Kirk Haring, who was in the audience on Monday, spoke about the district’s desire to purchase the building years ago when it began searching for a potential location to store its school buses.
Currently, the district parks its buses behind the high school on Euclid Avenue, and Haring said it’s difficult for neighbors and bus drivers to get in and out of the congestion. The school district has been on the hunt for an ideal location for the buses for some time. While it was never officially brought before the council, Haring said he had inquired about the building every year for the past four or five years.
When the city expressed interest in selling the building, PHS submitted its proposal with hopes the two taxing bodies could work together and make improvements on an “eyesore” on Main Street.
Haring said what made the school district’s proposal unique was that PHS didn’t need the building immediately, which would have given the city time to strategize a plan for moving the electric equipment and supplies being stored there.
It was brought up that if the building was sold to Promier, Grandadam had desires in moving in as soon as possible, which would have forced the city to use its reserves in paying for a plan to store its equipment elsewhere.
Quiram’s concern for the city was that if the council turned down Promier’s proposal, it would discourage Grandadam from wanting to expand even further in Princeton. As a way to counter arguments Favia and Swanson made Monday, Quiram used answers from old candidate questionnaires filled out by the two when they were running for the city council.
He read aloud their goals and desires in wanting to attract economic development and entrepreneurs to Princeton. He said the things they stated to voters then went against their stance on wanting to sell the building to PHS over Promier Products.
Favia’s response to Quiram was a reminder that he had put a stop to an economic development deal with TCI Manufacturing three years ago. Quiram admitted he had stopped the TCI deal and said it would have cost Princeton more than $1 million. He called it “a bad deal for Princeton.”
Swanson’s response was that Grandadam had already purchased one building in Princeton, and he didn’t believe Grandadam was going to turn around and leave Princeton over a warehouse location that he could find somewhere else in town or build, if he wished to do so.
Mabry also pointed out that Grandadam made the decision to come to Princeton before he knew he was in need of more space.
“We’re very pleased we have a new industry coming to Princeton, and we don’t want that person to think we’re slighting them, but that person has to understand that the high school has been looking at this spot for a couple years, and I really think we need to support our high school,” he said.
Legally, the council needed at least four votes to authorize a real estate purchasing agreement. The council voted 3-2 on a first reading of an ordinance authorizing an agreement with PHS, with Neumann and Quiram casting the “no” votes.
The council then voted 2-3 on a first reading of an ordinance authorizing an agreement with Promier Products, with Favia, Swanson and Mabry casting the “no” votes.
With no passage of either ordinance, neither will advance for a second and final reading.
On Tuesday, Quiram said the city has plans of taking down the “For Sale” sign on the property and would continue using the building as a storage space for the Electric Department. He said the city would be open to going out for another request for proposals if another potential buyer expressed interest in the property, but as of now, there are no set plans to do so.
Original source can be found here.