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Moorhead group says city should keep seeking uses for obsolete power plant

MOORHEAD -- Moorhead should give itself at least two years to find a use for the city's outdated power plant that would give the community a place to gather and keep the property in city hands.

That is one of the recommendations to come out of the Moorhead Power Plant Study Group, a citizen panel that has been looking for ways to give the old building new life.

In a presentation to Moorhead City Council members Monday, Mark Chekola, who led the study group, said a survey indicated residents want to see the building put to public use, such as a library, a teen or recreational center, a space for art, or a museum.

Chekola said the study group also came up with a list of uses that would not be appropriate for the property. The list includes hotels, large performance centers or any operation requiring a large amount of parking.

The sale of the property to a private party could be an option, but it should be pursued only after potential public uses are exhausted, Chekola said.

He stressed there's no need to hurry on a course of action, as Moorhead Public Service will continue to need the plant as a backup power generator for another two years.

The study group began its work last fall by collecting ideas from community members.

However, Chekola said no clear proposal or "key player" has emerged to move a project forward, and he said the study group recommends that city staff take on the job of continuing to look for possible uses.

He added the city should be prepared to work with any parties that express an interest in developing an appropriate plan.

In other business Monday, the council recognized the three decades of service that City Clerk Kaye Buchholz, who will retire in October, has given to the city. City Manager Michael Redlinger then introduced the council to Jill Wenger, who has been hired to replace Buchholz.

Wenger has been the coordinator of the restorative justice program in Clay County for the past nine or so years.

Also Monday, council members voted to prepare for the sale of $8.1 million in general obligation bonds that would pay for flood mitigation projects and property acquisition.

The actual sale of the bonds will take place in October.