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Perham delays Happel Addition assessments

Buyer interest in the remaining lots in Perham's Happel Addition has waned, causing the city to defer assessments on the open lots for another two years.

While the majority of the original 28 lots have been developed and are "on the tax rolls right now," according to Dean Simpson, "We've been challenged with trying to develop the lots since that point."

Simpson, who is one of the owners and developers of the Happel Addition, spoke to the city council at a meeting last week.

"The market's tough," he said. "We've had very little interest over the last few years. We've lowered the price on the lots to the point where we'll accept any reasonable offer."

At this point, Simpson said, the market is just starting to pick up again, and "we have a couple of people right now who are showing interest, so hopefully that will continue and that'll continue to grow."

The Happel Addition is located in south Perham, on the east side of Highway 78. It includes commercial developments such as Dean's Country Market. Before being developed, the land was used for farming.

"We're pleased with the addition, overall," said Simpson.

According to city officials, the city can defer the assessments for another two years and still be in a positive cash position - "So the city won't be going backwards," said Mayor Tim Meehl.

In a memo to the council, Perham's Finance Officer, Patti Stokke, explained that the original developer agreement for the Happel Addition included a schedule for activating assessments on the 28 total lots over seven years. Eighteen of those were activated between 2006 and 2010.

The 10 assessments originally scheduled to be activated in 2011 and 2012 were already deferred once.

The lots that have been sold and assessments that were paid in full at the time of purchase have kept the account balance for the development in good condition.

Any lots left unsold after this latest deferment will be placed back into the activation schedule for 2014 and 2015.

In other news, the council:

-Selected Apex Engineering Group, out of Fargo, N.D., to work on various projects with the city. Apex was one of three firms that recently went through an interview process with the city.

-Heard an informal request by Marcia Davis, who is involved with the local museums and spoke at the meeting as a concerned citizen.

Davis asked the council, "to set an example for the rest of the community" and help devise a plan for replacing the museums' current director, Lina Belar.

Belar, who has been volunteering her time for both the History Museum of East Otter Tail County and the ITOW Veterans Museum, has announced her intent to retire in the coming months.

Directing the museums is a full-time job deserving of competitive pay, stated Davis, and she asked the council for "both monetary support and encouragement" as the museum board moves forward with a search for the right candidate.

"We're proud of our museums, and we want them to be sustained, if we can," said Davis. Part of the new director's role would be to seek grants and devise fundraisers for the museums, hopefully "supporting their own position" in time.

No action was taken by the council at its meeting last week; further discussion is needed.

-Approved a Conditional Use Permit and Variance Request related to the Resource Recovery Facility. The existing waste-to-energy facility will be expanded to include a material recovery facility.

-Canvassed votes from the Nov. 6 city election.