Aberdeen council delays potential sale of Michigan Street property purchased for homeless camp

The Aberdeen City Council voted Wednesday to table a decision to sell property on Michigan Street purchased by the city last August to establish a larger, longer-term homeless camp at a later date.

“I made the motion to table this report and the reason is we, as a council, not long ago passed a report that if we received outside funding to keep a homeless camp we would extend the (current camp next to City Hall) to May 15. We also passed a report that if we did get outside funding help we would move the camp to the Michigan Street property,” said Ward 3 Councilman Tim Alstrom.

“The fact we’re a little more than three weeks away from that date, I think it’s too early to do that (sell the Michigan Street property),” he continued. “When the timeline has passed it would be appropriate to bring this up again.”

The city has been unable to get funding to help operate a homeless camp in the city from state and county sources, and without it has said the current camp at City Hall — which the city had operated at its own expense for 10 months at the cost of about $35,000 a month — will close May 15.

The passage of the report would have allowed Mayor Pete Schave to market the property for sale for $65,000, the amount determined it would take to cover the city’s initial purchase and subsequent clearing and grading of the lot at 421 S. Michigan St. That location could have held about 150 homeless people and would have been run much like the City Hall camp.

Before the vote to table the motion, Schave told the City Council there were two potential buyers who had already contacted him about buying the property at the listed price.

“I just want to let the council know there are two separate entities that are interested in purchasing the property and they are very serious about it,” he said. “One called earlier today and was wanting to come in and put earnest money down and offered the full $65,000.”

He said both “entities” had expressed “getting things going on it as soon as possible” so they could develop the property during this current construction season.

Ward 2 Councilman Nathan Kennedy said he agreed with the motion to table.

“Our ad hoc committee (on homeless response) did a lot of work trying to find a spot to move the camp to and I think that just selling it off before May 15, which isn’t that far off, if something were to happen and we didn’t have this property any longer, all the work put into that would be completely gone by the wayside,” said Kennedy. “I think waiting an extra couple weeks would be prudent to make sure everything is finalized before getting rid of the property.”

As with all votes conducted by teleconference, the decision was made via a roll call vote. Voting yes on the motion to table were Alstrom, Kennedy, Ward 1 Councilwoman Tawni Andrews, Ward 5 Councilman Joshua Francy, Ward 4 Councilwomen Karen Rowe and Deborah Ross, and Council President Dee Anne Shaw. Voting no were Ward 6’s Frank Gordon and Ward 3 Councilwoman Kati Kachman. Absent was Ward 2 Councilman John Maki, with two council seats currently vacant due to resignations.

The report can be brought back for council consideration by any council member at a future meeting.