ELY – City officials here, on Tuesday, accepted a purchase offer from the K America Foundation for the city’s long-vacant Community Center. The Ely City Council made the decision following a …
ELY – City officials here, on Tuesday, accepted a purchase offer from the K America Foundation for the city’s long-vacant Community Center. The Ely City Council made the decision following a closed-session discussion at their regular council meeting.
The buyers, Jimmy and Africa Yoon, doing business as the K America Foundation, had submitted an offer to purchase the building last May, indicating they plan to use the city landmark as a Korean cultural and philosophy center.
City officials accepted their offer of $30,000 for the city landmark, plus attorney’s fees and closing costs.
City resident and council candidate Angela Campbell offered her own bid for the building last month with plans to restore the building to its past as an Ely Civic and Community Center. She said Tuesday night that her offer was for $37,000.
On the advice of City Attorney Kelly Klun, council members went into closed session Tuesday night to consider the offers they received from the Yoons and Campbell.
Mayor Chuck Novak said Wednesday that one of the main factors in the city accepting the lower bid was that the Yoons did not require the city to remove asbestos from the building. “That could cost us as much as $35,000 to $50,000,” he said.
He also said that the Yoons had a “serious and thought-out” business plan. “We also have very stringent right of re-entry provisions if certain milestones and time frames are not met as we move along in this transaction,” Novak said.
“The Community Center has sat idle for almost four years. We worked through a broker that marketed the building across the country so we could get serious and interested buyers,” he said.
Novak said the next steps include getting a timeline locked-in to complete the transaction and to remove the fuel tank from the building.
He responded to a citizen who spoke during the open forum portion of the meeting questioning the city’s apparent lack of transparency in discussing the real estate transaction. “This is nowhere near over. Before the city can sell any property it has to have two public readings of the ordinance and at least one, if not multiple, public hearings,” he said.
The council set a public hearing on the issue for Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers. A potential first reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Campbell appeared before the council and offered her plans for the Community Center. In an introductory statement, she read, “On Aug. 12, I met before the city council regarding my purchase agreement for the city of Ely Community Center. I indicated at the time that I would be submitting a business plan for the Community Center. It was my intention to submit a business plan within 30 days. I was not requested by the city council, nor the broker, to submit my proposal earlier. On Aug 30, I was made aware, by the city administrator that I needed to submit my business plan to the broker as soon as possible. Due to the holiday weekend, I was unable to meet with my broker, my lawyer or my accountant. Due to the lack of their input I am not able to submit a full comprehensive plan regarding the cash flow financials in a timely manner. However, I propose to submit a full comprehensive plan within three weeks.”
In her business plan synopsis, Campbell said her goal for the Community Center is “to restore the iconic building and to preserve the original intent of the cultural heritage of the Ely Community Center.”
She said she expected to tap private capital, to implement her plans for remodeling of the center, which she expects to make available for festivals, ethnic and cultural days, workshops and seminars, conferences, entertainment, performing arts, health and wellness seminars, science fairs, educational and historical, weddings, receptions and celebrations, and office space rental.”
“By not considering my proposal to purchase the Community Center you are erasing generations of Ely’s legacy,” she told the council.
During the open forum portion of the meeting, city resident Frana Cherico said, “As a taxpayer I would like to know why the people of Ely are not allowed transparency on the sale of the Community Center. The potential buyers, on the Internet, act as if they already own the building. Shouldn’t there be some responsibility to the Ely people who pay the taxes?”