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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Although the Colfax Village Board approved selling Soo Park to the Colfax Railroad Museum last July, the property has not yet been deeded to the museum.
Herb Sakalaucks Jr., curator of the Colfax Railroad Museum, gave an update to the Colfax Village Board during the public comments portion of the January 28 meeting.
Sakalaucks wanted to acquire the property directly south of the Colfax Railroad Museum on Railroad Avenue as a place to install a miniature train ride he had purchased.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved selling the property to the Colfax Railroad Museum at the July 23, 2018, board meeting for $3,500 along with an agreement for the museum to pay for finishing the portion of Park Drive from where it ends now to connect with the museum’s property.
Soo Park was given to the village to develop as a park in the early 1900s. For whatever reason, the property was never properly deeded to the village, so the lot sat there for nearly a hundred years, with no deed and no owner.
The Certified Survey Map (CSM) of the area includes a platted street running east and west containing several curves to make it a “park drive.”
The museum has raised $38,500 for the project, and 320 feet of track for the miniature train ride has been laid so far on the museum’s existing property. A concrete foundation pad has been poured for an engine house for the train ride, and the framing for the building is up, Sakalaucks told the village board.
The museum also has submitted other grant requests, including a grant for the museum’s library of train materials, and a request for a grant to WE Energies. Xcel Energy has pledged long-term support in the amount of $500 per year, he said.
The deed for Soo Park property, however, remains in limbo, Sakalaucks said.
The problem has been negotiating a developer’s agreement with the village’s attorney, Anders Helquist of Weld Riley SC, he said.
Sakalaucks told the village board he did not want to be personally liable for paying for the street work and that the liability should be with the Colfax Railroad Museum.
The museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Gary Stene, village president, said it was his understanding Sakalaucks would not be personally liable and that the developer’s agreement allowed two years for the street to be completed with the possibility of an extension of the deadline if necessary.
Sakalaucks said he thought the developer’s agreement was finally finished, but the draft of the agreement includes a termination date but then later on negates the termination date.
The grand opening of the miniature train ride, with a “golden spike” ceremony, is scheduled for Saturday, May 11, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad golden spike, he said.
A 17.6-karat gold spike joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit in Utah Territory.
Stene reiterated it was his understanding “when the road is done, you’re done.”
Since the developer’s agreement with the Colfax Railroad Museum was not an agenda item, the village board could not discuss the issue or take any action.
Stene suggested the developer’s agreement be on the agenda for a village board meeting and that the village’s attorney should also be at the meeting so the developer’s agreement could be settled.
The village board “did a 180” about selling the Soo Park property to the Colfax Railroad Museum, and “I want this settled,” Stene said.
The Colfax Plan Commission had recommended not selling the Soo Park property to the railroad museum for $3,500 last June.
Based on the recommendation of the Colfax Plan Commission, the Colfax Village Board at the June 25 meeting on a vote of five “yes” to two “no,” turned down the offer from the Colfax Railroad Museum of $3,500 for the half acre south of the museum between the railroad tracks and Park Drive.
The museum has two years to complete the road, but an extension can be granted, if needed, and “when the road is done, the museum’s obligation is done,” Stene said.
“I want this straightened out … let’s see how we can make this happen,” he said.
Anne Jenson, village trustee, wondered if the village board could put a deadline on having a signed developer’s agreement.
The Colfax Village Board meets next on February 11.
Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, said she would try to put the Colfax Railroad Museum’s developer’s agreement on the next agenda but whether the agreement would be on the next agenda depended upon Helquist’s schedule and which meeting he would be able to attend.