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End is near for blighted turkey plant

Frazee has been awarded a $524,100 state redevelopment grant for the former Swift turkey plant site.

"We were notified on Friday," Frazee City Clerk Kelsey Klemm told the Becker County Board Tuesday.

In June, Frazee was awarded a Brownfield urban redevelopment grant for $36,525 to investigate the extent of any contamination at the site.

"This is a huge economic development opportunity here," said Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen. "But at the same time, the turkey plant is a huge tax forfeiture issue we've been dealing with for years."

The county board agreed Tuesday to provide $9,000 in matching funds toward the Brownfield grant, with half to come from the EDA operating fund and half from a fund for tax forfeited property.

The Frazee EDA on Sept. 18 agreed to pay $4,500 toward the Brownfield matching fund requirement.

The big grant is the result of efforts by the Swift Task Force, a collaboration of Frazee and county representatives.

"This is a very positive thing for our community, and also for the whole county," said Frazee Mayor Fred Daggett.

The turkey plant has sat largely abandoned and in tax-forfeited status for years.

More city and county funds will be needed to come up with an equal match required for the $524,100 state grant.

The county will be asked to contribute another $62,500 to cover asbestos abatement and by providing a low interest, tax increment financing loan. The total county contribution would be $71,500.

Frazee, meanwhile, will be financing about $465,000 for the project, through a tax increment financing revenue note, bonds or general fund revenues.

In all, the demolition and site cleanup are expected to cost about $1.1 million, including $65,000 for private property acquisition (the plan also calls for a $25,000 Daggett property donation); $125,000 for asbestos removal; about $450,000 for Swift plant demolition and cistern removal; $50,000 for demolition of adjacent buildings; $205,000 for site preparation, which includes removal of the existing parking lot, site grading, soil stabilization, infill, and paving of an alley and public parking area. A final $185,000 will go to pave and widen River Drive South.

According to the tentative project timeline, bids will be awarded April, and in May and June buildings will be demolished. Prep work could be finished and commercial lots made available for development as early as the end of next summer.

"Frazee's main economic development goal is for its downtown to become a place for people to come to -- a destination," the task force wrote in an Aug. 28 memo. "With six potential acres of prime real estate linking downtown to the banks of the Ottertail River, redevelopment of the Swift site provides a unique opportunity to reshape Frazee's commercial and cultural center by creating more green space and pedestrian-friendly shops and walkways."

The environmental assessment will begin this fall, and bidding for asbestos abatement could be held this winter and spring.