By Barbie Porter
Vergas is set to have a new business building built downtown. Summers Construction recently purchased a lot from Rich McCrady, and applied for a permit to construct a dual office building.
Summers Construction may be well known in Vergas already, as they donated the labor to remodel the exterior of the Vergas Event Center. In addition to general contracting and construction, company owners Mike and Joy Summers are also real estate agents.
Mike Summers informed the Vergas Economic Development Authority (EDA) that their intent is to have a real estate and construction design center in the building.
The lot that is planned to hold a 5,376-square-foot building is often used by food vendors during the city’s annual festival, Looney Days. The vacant lot is located along Railway Avenue, across the street from Vergas Hardware and Hanson’s Plumbing and Heating.
Summers said the number of jobs the business will produce has yet to be determined, but the hope is to bring three to four full-time positions to the community.
Summers requested the EDA consider waiving construction fees (not including fees associated with hooking up to water and sewer services).
EDA President Kevin Zitzow noted water and sewer were available on the property and asked if that fee should also be waived. The EDA learned the former landowner had disconnected and shut off those services completely. So, work to get the services going would need to be done.
The EDA agreed to waive construction fees of $1,500, but will require the utility hook-up fee be paid.
EDA reviews commercial tax abatement policy
The EDA recommended to the city council a tax abatement opportunity be offered for commercial properties.
The group reviewed the Otter Tail County policy that is already in place. The application used by the county was also reviewed. After making minor changes, such as removing an application fee, the EDA agreed the form be presented for council review.
Vergas City Clerk Julie Lammers said two applications for the perk would be likely be submitted this year: one for the Summers Construction office building and the other for the former supermarket building.
The supermarket building was under contract and expected to close in mid-May.
Lammers explain the abatement process, if approved by the city council, those utilizing the commercial development program pay taxes as normal. However, the city would return the city tax fees to the property owner that applied for and was approved for the abatement program.
Lammers emphasized that the tax abatement would not include whatever is currently paid on the property. For example, if the land was vacant the property tax on vacant land would still be collected. If there was a building, the amount for the current lot and building would still be collected. However, the abatement would be for taxes on any new structure or addition.
If the program is approved by the city council, Lammers said the opportunity for tax abatement could start in 2022. The EDA suggested the program’s longevity coincide with the county’s tax abatement program.
creating a to-do list
The EDA began creating a to-do list for the next several months. On the list were identifying undeveloped properties in city limits that would be available for purchase (for both residential and commercial). Discussion on potential direction of city growth was also a topic to be considered.
The EDA held its annual meeting recently and had a solid turnout of more than 40 people. It was noted the best meeting was a few years back when almost 60 people attended.
Comments from attendees were shared by the EDA, and the group noted they appreciated the feedback.
Lammers said one comment filled her with a bit of regret. Vergas resident Duane Strand, who passed recently, was a founding member of the EDA. Lammers said someone was surprised he wasn’t recognized at the meeting.
The EDA agreed that oversight was unintentional and they wished they had acknowledged him, as he made a positive and lasting impact on the community.