Forest Grove acquires properties next to fire station
The City of Forest Grove reported it has officially closed deals to purchase two properties on a downtown city block that already hosts three major municipal buildings.
Paul Downey, Forest Grove's administrative services director, said the city completed its purchase of the former Stuntzner Building at 2137 19th Ave. earlier this month, then it formally acquired a vacant house next door at 2129 19th Ave. on Friday, March 23.
"The city has officially closed on both properties as of last Friday when the deed on the house was recorded," Downey told the News-Times.
The Forest Grove City Council directed staff last month to proceed with the property purchases after hearing presentations from Downey and other city officials.
The house initially had another buyer, but the deal fell through and the city and owner Cross Investment LLC agreed to a $240,000 purchase price.
The house was built in 1920 but was recently remodeled, according to a real estate listing. Downey suggested last month that the city could move some staff workspaces to the building.
Stuntzner Engineering & Forestry LLC announced last fall it was moving its Forest Grove offices to a nearby location at 2318-B Pacific Ave.
The old building has some environmental issues, the City Council heard in February, including a failing roof and suspected on-site contamination that dates back decades. It could be demolished to make way for new development.
"We feel the risk to the city is very low," Downey told the City Council at the time. "The city attorney's office agreed with that assessment."
Owners Ronald and Joyce Stuntzner and Eric Urstadt accepted the city's $410,000 offer to buy the property last month.
Including closing costs and other fees, the total acquisition cost to the city for both properties is $653,801.60, according to Downey. That money comes out of Forest Grove's general fund.
The purchases give the city effective control of the entire block, as its police and fire stations and public library are also located there.
Forest Grove Fire & Rescue at 1919 Ash St. technically encompasses both the municipal fire department and the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District, which covers unincorporated areas around Forest Grove. The rural fire protection district shares firefighting equipment and staff, including Chief Michael Kinkade, with the city. However, it is governed by its own elected board of directors.
"The fire district board of directors must approve any property work or actions that involve the fire station," Downey confirmed.
The City Council is studying the possibility of a bond measure to renovate, expand or replace its police station at 2102 Pacific Ave. The newly acquired properties are located on the opposite corner of the block, but that land could potentially be used by the Forest Grove Police Department in the future.
The Forest Grove City Library lies to the north at 2114 Pacific Ave., on the other side of a parking lot, driveway and small wetland area. The library building dates back to 1978, but it was expanded following the passage of a bond measure in 1998 and remodeled less than 10 years later.
All three departments were mentioned in a statement after the City Council vote last month as possible beneficiaries of the two properties coming under city ownership.
"The city has been looking at these properties for years," Downey said in that statement. "Owning the entire block (in part with the FGRPRD) really creates the most pathways and flexibility for the city to optimize its existing buildings in an efficient and cost-effective manner."
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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