City commissioners Dave Harrison, left, Vice Mayor Joe Denoyer, Bob Carlile, Mayor Tim Long and Larry Koochel listen to local businessman Bill Hill’s proposal Wednesday afternoon to sell the Nash Finch building to be used as a rec center – if approved by voters in May. L&T photo/Jessica Crawford
By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
Wednesday afternoon, local businessman Bill Hill made a proposal to the City of Liberal: that the city purchase the Nash Finch building at Second St. and Western Ave. for $2.4 million for the purpose of a recreation center. However, commissioners will not be able to decide on the matter until votes are cast in May as to whether or not voters wish to approve the construction of a recreation center. If approved in May, a recreation center would be built with 1-cent sales tax funds.
“To clarify, this is a proposal of a sale of what is known as the Nash Finch building to the city for the purpose of the possibility of a community center,” Mayor Tim Long said.
Hill said the building is situated in a prime location and due to the size, approximately 170,000 square feet, possibilities are endless.
“In my idea, it is a great location for a rec center,” Hill said. “One, it is right by the school houses out there, two, it is easy access in and out and the building is already there.”
Hill with the help of his son, Kelly, and David Thompson, spent approximately $5,000 to $6,000 to draw up plans for the building, simply to show commissioners what the building could actually consist of if used as a recreation center.
“My son Kelly and I went over the plans with David Thompson, all the plans are is just some ideas that we had drawn up,” Hill said. “It is not saying that you have to build it that way. What it is for is to give everybody an idea of what can be put in there with the massive size of this building.
“We have basketball courts drawn on there, we have soccer fields on there, a football field – that is a half-size football field, then they have tennis courts drawn in there,” he said. “This part of the building is more than 100,000 square feet. The part that was the cooler part for Nash Finch, that is 60,000 plus square feet. Then there is the office area in the corner, that is 9,000 square feet.”
The cooler area Hill said could possibly be used for wrestling, boxing and gymnastics during a tour of the building with commissioners. He added there will be more property included in the proposed sale aside from just the building.
“There is about 12.9 acres out south of the building that goes along with this,” he said. “Over to the west, there is an outside building that Nash Finch used for their truck shop.”
Hill informed the commissioners of the cost of his proposal – including the final payment of the building would be donated back to the project as a contribution from the Hill family. Hill said there would be an option of a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual payment schedule.
“We would be willing on our part to take $2.4 million for the building,” he said. “We are willing to take a down payment of $750,000 and finance the rest at 2.5 percent interest.
“At the end, what we would do, at the end of the payments, I think it was set up on a 10-year payout, the last $240,000 we would donate to the rec center,” he explained. “But at the end of the payoff, our contribution to the community, from us, the Hill family, would be $240,000 to the rec center.”
Hill said two other companies are currently looking into the possible purchase of the building. However, he said, he would like to see the building used as a prospective recreation center.
“I grew up in Liberal and I know that all of us have had kids go through there,” he said. “Liberal needs something whether it is here or you put it somewhere else, we need it.”
City Manager Mark Hall informed the commission of the possible engineering costs to draw up plans for the project, considering voters do, in fact, want a recreation center. He added the cost estimate would not include any actual construction, only plans to convert the building into a recreation center.
“To obtain plans to go forward with the project, you are probably looking at a range from $200,000 to $300,000,” Hall said. “That is somewhat to be expected in a project of this size.”
Commissioner Larry Koochel said nothing can be done unless voters approve the construction of a recreation center after the results of a special election in May are tabulated.
“First thing,” Koochel said, “We have to see what the voters say and go from there.”
Mayor Tim Long agreed that nothing can be decided until the special election.
“We can’t go in there and spend money and then it may not pass,” Long said. “We have to wait.”
Mark Hall wished to make it clear to voters that Hill’s proposal was just that, a proposal. Hall said no decisions are being made at this time due to the fact that the special election to determine if a recreation center will or will not be built with 1-cent sales tax funds has not yet occurred.