Janesville8.5°

Milton eyes industrial vacancy

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
September 2, 2011
— The city of Milton is considering a $5 million to $7 million plan to funnel most of the city’s municipal service facilities into the soon-to-be vacant Burdick building.

Under a plan that has developed over weeks of private discussions between city officials, owners and an architectural firm, the city would relocate City Hall, the Milton Public Library and the city’s police and fire departments into a consolidated municipal services center in the 100,000-square-foot industrial facility at 15 Plumb St.


The option arose this summer after the city learned that the Burdick building’s main tenant, ANGI Energy Systems, plans to move to another location in Rock County. City Administrator Jerry Schuetz announced this week the company was leaving because it needed room to expand.


The city would pay for the proposed Burdick project with $5 million earmarked for future capital improvements. But the plan hinges largely on whether the city can sell the Shaw Municipal Building, which houses City Hall and the library. It also would need to sell the current police and fire departments and the West Madison Avenue public works building.


All of those buildings are spread throughout the city and would be vacant under the proposal.


Under a proposed land-contract purchase, the city would rent the Burdick building from owners McGuire-Lasse LLP over a four or five-year term before buying it. The owners would pay costs for work required to adapt the building into a municipal services center.


Under the plan, the city would sell off its municipal facilities and use the money to pay rent down on the project over the next five years.


City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said that would defer costs to taxpayers until 2016, when the city had intended to borrow money for an earlier plan to build a combined police-fire department. That project was slated to cost as much as $9 million.


Schuetz said it could make more sense for the city to buy the Burdick building instead, because it would have a relatively lower price tag—$5 million to $7 Million—and it’s large enough to fit more city facilities than just fire and police.


The city and owners still have weeks of discussions on the proposed project. He said a public discussion on the plan could come within the next month, during city council budget workshops.


Schuetz indicated a deal to buy the Burdick building would only come after the city sold the Shaw building and liquidated the police, fire and public works facilities.


“We’d want to take step one before we take step two,” Schuetz said.


Step one started this week. In a rushed pitch to the Milton School District on Monday night, Schuetz offered to sell the Shaw building to the school district for $900,000. The building has an appraised value of about $1.3 million.


The city timed the pitch to outpace an electorate meeting planned Monday night during which the district was seeking approval to buy another building, the Daland building.


“We didn’t want the community to say, ‘If you were going to sell the Shaw (building), why didn’t you approach the school district before it bought the Daland building?” Schuetz said in an interview this week.


The district is in the latter stages of buying the Daland building to relocate its central offices and MECAS alternative school, which are in rented space. Voters OK’d the purchase Monday, but the board is now delaying a decision pending a study by the district and the city staff on the Shaw building as an alternative.


Schuetz indicated that if the district decides it’s not interested in buying the Shaw building, the city could have other sale options, but it’s not clear under what conditions the council would want to sell the building.


Combined, the Shaw building and the existing police and fire departments have a footprint of 40,000 square feet. But the Burdick building would have 56,000 square feet available for those same facilities, according to plans drawn up by Janesville architect Angus-Young Associates.


Schuetz said that would solve space crunches and logistical problems identified in past facilities studies at the library and the fire and police departments.


Plans also show space at the Burdick building for a potential community center, a business incubator and a police and fire training facility.



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