It began as a simple property bid but turned into a city controversy.
By BRYCE MARTIN
Posted May 3, 2013
DUNN CENTER — It began as a simple property bid but turned into a city controversy.
Local landowner Sady Ridl approached the Dunn Center City Council a couple months ago wanting to purchase two lots next to her existing building on Main Street.
According to Dunn Center city ordinance, it is required that any city-owned property to be sold must be put up for bid.
A motion then was made to list the Main Street lots, which city councilor Maggie Piatz said she seconded.
“I thought I was just approving to run the ad for those lots,” Piatz said. “(The advertisement) came out on a Friday … I called the mayor and I said, did you know the city shop’s up for sale and did you know that lot next to city hall that we want to develop is up for sale?”
What had happened led the city to confusion.
One city councilor and Cory Ravnaas, Dunn Center’s unofficial city engineer, listed every city-owned property on Main Street, with the exception of the Dunn Center City Hall, to see if they’d receive bids.
“By listing everything, it just opened a whole can of worms,” Piatz said. “We’ve had trouble because of this bid.”
A clause listed in the advertisement for bids reserved the city the right to reject any or all bids, leading to the belief the entire ad would not have to be rescinded as Dunn Center Mayor Scott Lynch had suggested.
Bid opening began, as scheduled, in March and the city received one bid for each property.
The properties listed for bid were the condemned white building – to be torn down later this spring – three or four lots adjacent to the building on the north side of the street next to city hall; the city shop and storage area, which shares the block with Piatz’s; and six empty lots where an ice skating rink once stood.
“Sadie didn’t even get to bid because she was so confused on all of it,” Piatz said.
Ravnaas’ engineering company Circle H made the bids, which would have bought him control of the city’s Main Street.
“We have not approved the bid yet – we’re waiting to make sure all the properties are clear with the land and title company,” Dunn Center Mayor Scott Lynch said.
Lynch said he wasn’t at the meeting where the matter was discussed so he was not privy to whether the listing a majority of the properties was intentional.
The five city councilors decided April 25 to neither accept nor totally deny the bid. Piatz said she would check each city-owned property deed that was up for bid to ensure they contained no liens.
“While we’re not going to give (Ravnaas) the whole main street, tell us where (you) want to start and we’ll get those done first,” she said.
Ravnaas is an engineer, but also a developer.
When Piatz attended March Madness in Bismarck with the North Dakota League of Cities, she asked if it was possible for Ravnaas to serve as city engineer for the city and develop it at the same time, which was discovered it is unethical.
During the April 11 city meeting, Ravnaas’s official engineering agreement was approved by the council, but not signed.
“Once he signs his contract, he’ll have to make the decision whether to be the city’s engineer or act as developer,” Piatz said.
Ravnaas, of Bozeman, Mont., is owner of Circle H and Highlight Engineering and has worked with the city for some time.
“In all his wonderful visions and drawings, he’s forgetting about the people who have always lived here – the people who came here for a reason to make their life here,” Piatz said. “He is only looking at what he wants or what he thinks he can turn the town into.
“We want some growth, but we also still want our town.”
Contact Bryce Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org