Hillsboro council OKs purchase of dairy plant for ‘bargain’ $75,000

It’s official. The city of Hillsboro will be the new owner of the former dairy plant known locally as the AMPI property.

After meeting in executive sessions to discuss final terms, the Hillsboro City Council voted Tuesday to proceed with the purchase for a price of $75,000.

The council had indicated its intent to purchase the property in late July if liability issues about asbestos and the plant’s sewage system could be resolved.

City Administrator Steven Garrett said after the meeting that those concerns had been worked out “to our satisfaction” and the council was ready to finalize the sale.

The transaction will involve about 30 acres, including the land annexed by the city after Dairy Farmers of America announced in August 1998 that it was closing the plant, as well as a sewage lagoon one mile directly north of the plant.

The various buildings on the site total about 100,000 square feet.

“I’m excited about the fact that we’re getting it,” Mayor Delores Dalke said of the property. “Hopefully, the community will want to go along with some really progressive things for Hillsboro.”

What those “progressive things” will be is still to be determined.

“There have been discussions, but nothing final has been decided,” Garrett said. “As for right now, the present uses for the buildings would remain the same.”

Barkman Honey Co. and Hillsboro Industries use some space for storage, and Gorges Trucking uses the shop area for vehicle maintenance.

The city will assume those contracts once the deal is finalized, Garrett said, and may store some equipment there, too, “where it would be appropriate.”

A variety of ideas for the property’s future have been bandied about.

“I have my dreams for what I’d like to see it become, and would like to explore some of those ideas a little further before anything is announced,” Dalke said.

One option that interests the council, Garrett said, is building a new safety center on the corner of Ash and Third streets.

“That corner lot…would make a good area for a safety center,” he said. “It has good access every direction out of it.

“We were looking at (spending) over $100,000 to purchase enough property to house a safety center across the street (from city hall),” Garrett added. “Now we have something that can entertain that thought here as part of this major purchase.”

The dairy-plant property initially was put on the market by DFA for $450,000.

“I believe it is (a bargain),” Dalke said about the sale. “Just the land alone, if you think about the corner of Third and Ash, could be a very valuable piece of property for something in the future just because of where it is.”

With the sale, the city will own all of the land along U.S. Highway 56 between Ash Street and Adams Street and north of Third Street.

“We’re not needing that for an expansion (of frontage property along the highway) right now, but there’s a great future there,” Dalke said.

Garrett said the most immediate benefit to the city would be use of the natural gas line that was installed on the property while it was owned by Associated Milk Producers Inc.

Owning the line will enable the city to “wheel” gas-which means negotiating for large quantities of gas when prices are lower rather than paying the going rate at the time it is needed. The line will also save transportation costs of delivering the gas.

“The major concern (of the council) has been the gas-line purchase and what that would mean for the community, particularly some of the larger natural-gas users,” Garrett said. “That was the major conversation-what that would do to help everyone in town.”

Both Garrett and Dalke said the council has established no particular timeline for deciding the future of the property.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Dalke said, “but it’s exciting that we’re going to have the opportunity to work on it.”

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