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Frazee rehab plan removes turkey plant

What to do with the Swift turkey plant in Frazee has been a dilemma for Becker County and Frazee city officials alike for several years now.

But on Tuesday, the Becker County Board took action to put the tax-forfeited property up for sale -- for the asking price of $500, plus fees of approximately $100.

The anticipated buyer is the Frazee Economic Development Authority. The City of Frazee and its EDA have been working with the county for the past couple of years on redeveloping the property, which is owned by the county due to tax forfeiture.

On Monday, the Frazee City Council approved making a formal request to the county for the direct sale of the former Swift-Eckrich property to the Frazee Economic Development Authority, for redevelopment purposes.

In April, the Frazee Economic Development Authority had acquired the former feed mill and elevator properties adjacent to the turkey plant, with plans to raze all three buildings and redevelop them together.

Though the assessed estimated value of the turkey plant property was set at $98,000 in January of this year, Becker County Assessor Steve Skoog said in a May 24 letter to the board that "the current estimated market value of the property is significantly less, as the property is in the process of being demolished."

"The highest and best use of the property is as a vacant lot, ready for development," Skoog wrote. "Therefore, the actual value is what the property would be worth as a bare lot ($98,000) less any costs incurred to clean the property up (an estimated $125,000 in demolition costs)."

Thus, Skoog summarized, "the current value of the property, if it were exposed to the open market... would be $0 or a negative value."

The County Finance Committee recommended setting the sale price at $500, plus fees.

The commissioners unanimously approved the sale at that amount.

Commissioner Harry Salminen had briefly considered making it a condition of the sale that the former turkey plant building (which has been vacant since the late 1980s) be demolished, but in subsequent discussion, noted, "I have faith (that the demolition will take place)."

"The building's going down this summer," said Commissioner Karen Mulari.

The plant was built in 1953 and closed Dec. 30, 1988. At that time, it processed about 10,000 turkeys a day and employed 260 people with an average payroll of $3.5 million, according to a story in the Dec. 7, 1988 Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

In other business, the board approved the sending of a letter of support for the City of Detroit Lakes' plans to obtain $9.5 million in bond funds for extension of the Heartland Trail from Park Rapids to Detroit Lakes.

If the project is funded, approximately 40 miles of bike trail will be added, adjacent to Highway 34. The Department of Natural Resources is currently developing a master plan to guide the development of the next phase of the trail extension. If all goes according to preliminary plans, construction on the trail extension would begin in the spring of 2009.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454