An approved land purchase will end a nearly 50 year lease arrangement between the City of Superior and Douglas County.  The city council has voted to move forward with the purchase of a land parcel that a combined sewer treatment plant is located on, taking it off the county's portfolio.

The decision came down to what was prudent within the confines of time. On the table was a decision whether or not to extend the current lease, continuing the terms between the two governing body's, or utilizing available funding to just buy the land outright.

When the vote came down, the Superior City Council decided to spend "up to $140,000, the appraised value, to purchase (the) land in South Superior where the city built a combined sewer treatment plant back in the 1970's".

What makes the timing of the purchase appealing right now is the availability of funds from "a loan through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund". According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the city has plans to "pursue a $1.4 million loan to make repairs at the facility.  The state loan program offers 30% loan forgiveness, which will reduce the city's overall costs for the loan by $420,000.

Douglas County, WI government office building
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

While some councilors might have preferred continuing a lease arrangement, a "changed position on ownership....and investing in an asset with a lease" by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources makes a purchase the more-prudent choice right now.  Public Works Director Todd Janigo explains that "lease payments wouldn't be eligible for loan forgiveness". Janigo also offered:

"We have a large piece of very important infrastructure sitting on county leased property.  It would behoove us to have it on our property."

Even as the city made the decision to buy the land outright from the county - and given the time constraints involved, there is still a hurdle to overcome.  To meet the deadline for the land acquisition to be included in the loan, it needs to be purchased no later than February 23.  Currently, Douglas County's elected officials are "on hiatus" and won't be resuming "normal business meetings prior to February 22".  That's when the land and development committee - which handles land sales - is scheduled to meet again.

At the Superior City Council meeting, an original motion to hold off on the decision by the council failed.  That led to the vote by the council to approve the dollar amount to buy the land. According to conversations between the council and Superior Mayor Jim Paine at the meeting, the capped $140,000 amount should be enough to make the approved land purchase.

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