Committee wants more business, less government on Main St.

Photo by Robert Williams
Multiple members of the Vergas Economic Authority expressed their distaste about a recent purchase of 131 East Main Street by the city of Vergas, rather than allowing the sale to go to a private party and create more retail business downtown.

By Robert Williams 


Vergas Economic Development Authority (EDA) President Kevin Zitzow added the recent purchase by the city of 131 East Main Street to the EDA agenda on Tuesday, Sept. 5, to get direct information on the purchase, future use of the site, and question why the EDA was not involved in the decision making. He and fellow board member DuWayne Ditterich also brought strong opinions on the sale.

According to clerk/treasurer Julie Lammers, the building came up for sale on a Monday and was finalized a week later, which allowed for an emergency meeting of the city council in order to get a bid to purchase submitted in time.

Plans are to remodel and create larger city offices and a meeting room, along with continuing a five-year rental agreement with the post office.

The opinion of both Ditterich and Zitzow was that the purchase stole what should be prime retail space in a town with none available.

“They took the only open business spot in Vergas away,” said Zitzow.

“That’s a horrible decision in my opinion,” said Ditterich.

EDA Vice President and Council Liaison Bruce Albright noted that the issue was raised at the emergency meeting.

“You took that building off the tax roll,” Zitzow said. “The city of Vergas has no money.”

“We spent the first part of this meeting, all we talked about was how Vergas has no money and they just spent—I don’t know exactly—plus renovations,” said Ditterich. “Vergas is one block long. We don’t need more government offices; we need more retail business in this town.”

Ditterich noted he spoke to other business owners in town anonymously, every single one of them said it was a terrible decision.

“One person said, ‘as long as it’s not the city,’” he said. “The popularity of that purchase is, let’s just say, not with business owners of Vergas.”

After a short silence, Albright addressed both Ditterich and Zitzow’s comments.

“We’ve got those concerns out there; I think the council needs to hear them,” Albright said. “Second thing is, what’s done is done. I don’t know if there is any regrouping or the council taking a second look at this, or withdrawing their offer.”

Later in the meeting, Albright  also stated, “I did raise the issue of what kind of private business could have been put in there.”

The sale has not officially closed as of the day of the meeting, according to Joy Summers.

The conversation was turned by both Ditterich and Zitzow to utilizing space at the Event Center for city office space, rather than downtown. Both men also publicly noted they were upset about the purchase.

Vanessa Perry, who represented one of the parties that was outbid by the city for the property, supported both sides and explained further the need for urgency in submitting bids.

“I think the issue is, as soon as there was a for sale sign up, I know of 3 or 4 people who looked at it, as well as us,” said Perry. “I know some of them put offers in. I don’t know where they fell, but I think the city’s issue and the reason they acted so quickly, like Julie said, if they waited even two, three weeks it was going to be gone.”

Zitzow gave his opinion that the EDA should make a recommendation to have the city rescind the offer on the purchase, but did not get a motion. Conflicts of interest played a part as well, with Perry involved with one of the parties bidding on the building, along with Summers, a local realtor who also had a financial interest.

“I will state on the side of the EDA it is not beneficial to what the EDA’s goals are; that’s 100 percent correct,” said Perry.

“I would at least like the EDA to stand strong on what our goals are,” Zitzow said. “It would be different if it sat there for a year and nobody wanted to buy it.”

“If there was that much private interest in it, a government shouldn’t put any interest into something that has multiple offers going in on it,” said Ditterich.

The group discussed a recommendation as a statement, which became another lengthy chat.

Perry asked clerk/treasurer Julie Lammers for an opinion on which space, the purchased building or a revamped event center, would be better for housing city offices and why, given that she works in the city office and is appointed to the Event Center advisory board.

“As a city office, either space is way more beneficial than what we have now,” said Lammers. The current city office is small. Lammers noted only one person can come in at a time to pay their utility bill.

“Either one of these spaces can be remodeled into private office space as well as space that can protect our receptionist area, which is very important,” said Lammers.

She also noted the city has applied for a grant that directly benefits protecting city workers that would be used for the remodel.

After a long chat about potential upgrades to the Event Center for city offices, including using the main room for meetings instead of, or in addition to, the current smart room, and amid further discussion, a statement was made to be submitted to the council on behalf of the EDA/HRA, excluding those with financial connections and/or direct conflicts of interest, against the purchase on multiple grounds stated above.


Lammers asked the EDA for a recommendation on allowing recreational cannabis dispensaries in Vergas and if the EDA was in favor of limiting the number of dispensaries that can do business in the village.

Otter Tail County must allow five licenses and can allow up to 50. The city of Vergas does not have to allow a minimum number of dispensaries, due to a population below 500, per Lammers’ report. 

Currently, no business can legally sell cannabis in the county, other than low dosage THC (1 percent or less) and CBD until January 1, 2024. 

The EDA declined a full recommendation but issued a statement to the council stating the EDA is not against opening a dispensary and sees that there could be economic advantages, but has concerns about the pros and cons.

“We don’t feel like we are in a place to regulate business; we like free commerce,” Vanessa Perry.

Dispensaries cannot open until the Office of Cannabis Management is fully functional and finalizes a licensing system for businesses, which could stretch until 2025. More information is available at