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Press Photo by Lisa Anne Call Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel discusses a property purchase during a special City Commission meeting at City Hall Tuesday morning.

Dickinson makes $194,400 purchase

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Dickinson makes $194,400 purchase
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Downtown Dickinson could see additional parking or a temporary homeless shelter after commissioners unanimously approved a $194,000 unbudgeted purchase of two homes during a special meeting at City Hall Tuesday morning.

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City Administrator Shawn Kessel sited the purchase as an "agenda item of opportunity," with long-term intentions leaning toward additional parking for City Hall and possibly Stark County staff.

Both constructed in 1902, one of the homes, located at 235 First Ave. E., directly north of City Hall, was purchased for the full asking price of $84,900.

The second home, located at 239 First Ave. E., was listed at $114,500, but was purchased for $109,500.

Requiring a budget amendment as it was not in the 2010 or 2011 budget, the purchase will be paid for using the city's general fund, which has a residual balance of more than $2 million.

Kessel said the purchase would not affect present operations.

Both homes are three bedrooms, two bathrooms and "basements are usable for storage and that would be about it," Kessel said.

No formal inspections on the homes have been conducted.

But, until the day of a new parking lot arrives, two interim uses are being pondered, one of which could provide a temporary fix to a rising homelessness issue.

Kessel said if area growth continues to happen as quickly, if not quicker than it is, additional city staff will be needed, thus additional office space at City Hall, putting further pressure on area parking.

Amid a housing crunch, the homes could also be used for future city staff, Kessel said.

"I agree with Mr. Kessel that I think long-term it makes excellent parking, but short-term because we have homeless needs apparently and we may have housing needs for our own employees, I think it's good to discuss those, too," said Mayor Dennis Johnson. "I think it makes a stronger case for purchasing the property if you have multiple uses for it."

But, if the property were to be transformed into a parking lot, one home still stands between City Hall and the purchased property.

The property directly behind City Hall to the north, 227 First Ave. E., is owned by resident True Bright White and has not been sold.

"The importance of this property, 235, is it provides us access in the event she is unwilling to sell at a reasonable price so that we could still make the parking lot and just simply go around," Kessel said.

No special-use permit or zoning changes would be needed to open a temporary homeless shelter at one of the sites.

"When in the future, we establish this as a parking lot, we may have to obtain a special-use permit which would mean notifying neighbors that that's our intent, but I believe for a homeless shelter we do not have to go through that process," Kessel said.

"Homeless shelters are not a popular neighbor ... I'm not sure where else in the city you're going to find a better spot. There may be properties that are going to be -- not be happy with the potential for a homeless shelter there."

Kessel said it will be "an internal debate" on how each property will be used.

"The conversation about a homeless shelter is good, I know we all want to do something there but I think we need to keep our eye on the ball that we do intend this to ultimately be parking," Commissioner Gene Jackson said.

A few hours after the City Commission approved the purchase, the Southwest Homeless Coalition and members of area agencies met to try and hammer out a fix for a rising homeless population.

Concerns were expressed with getting the properties up to code if one was to be used for a temporary shelter.

Coalition members also discussed other area properties possibly more suitable for a shelter. They also talked about funding, staffing and other issues but made no decisions.

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