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St. Helens discusses land buy from mayor, but takes no action

St. Helens City Council unlikely to make fast decision about purchase


SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - St. Helens Mayor Randy Peterson is offering to sell his 0.6-acre property at 970 Oregon St. to the city of St. Helens. Peterson, who has owned the Citizen Storage business that has operated there since the mid-1980s, said he wants to sell the land whether or not the city wants to buy it. St. Helens city councilors are not likely to make any immediate decisions regarding purchase of a $300,000 property from the city’s mayor, despite holding a closed meeting to discuss the property this week.

The St. Helens City Council held an executive session to discuss several real property transactions Wednesday, July 20, including the potential purchase of a property at 970 Oregon St. being offered to the city by Mayor Randy Peterson.

In light of the city’s discussions, however, St. Helens Budget Committee members have expressed concerns about funding for such a purchase.

Patrick Birkle, a five-year member of the Budget Committee, said purchase of Peterson’s property, or any other properties in the city, was never discussed in budget planning sessions held earlier this year.

“If the city decides to go through with it, what would be the timeline? Where is the money going to come from?” Birkle asked. “This $300,000, if that’s the asking price, is a good chunk of change, especially in view of the fact that the budget we did pass already has us digging into reserves.”

The city’s 2016-17 budget draws heavily on reserve funds, a decision made to increase the St. Helens Police Department budget to hire a full-time code enforcement officer this year. Birkle strongly supported inclusion of the code enforcement officer position in the budget with the idea that, over the next year, the city should look at ways

to generate additional re-

venue.

If approved, funding for the property purchase would likely come from the city’s Public Works Department budget, City Administrator John Walsh explained. The idea would be to combine the two pieces of city-owned property now used by the Public Works Department and separated by Peterson’s land together after the purchase.

Peterson said he is likely to sell the property even if the city chooses not to move forward with the purchase. However, if the city does not offer to buy it, Peterson said he would likely build an additional structure on the property, which would increase its value.

“The reason I offered it to the city is, if they wanted it, I wouldn’t put another building in there. If they don’t, I would put up another building and then try to sell it,” Peterson said.

Peterson and his wife have owned the property since the mid-1980s, and Peterson said they would like to sell the business and property so they have more time to travel.

He also owns a piece of property on Milton Way which he said he would not offer to the city, explaining that “the only reason it makes sense for them to buy this one is because Public Works is right there.”

Peterson did not attend the executive session meeting during discussions about the potential purchase of his property. Following the closed meeting, City Administrator John Walsh said staff are “in no hurry to make any decisions” on the purchase.