A local business that needs to move is getting some help with the blessing of the Wayne City Council.
On a 7-0 vote Tuesday, the council approved an LB840 loan request of $35,000 to Josh Hopkins, who intends to purchase land on the west edge of town along Highway 35 to build a new building for his optometry business.
Hopkins told the council that he has a purchase agreement for a 2.25-acre tract of land just east of Dollar General on west Highway 35 and hopes to break ground on construction of a new building within the next two years.
“That’s the first domino, and we should be closing in the next 2-3 weeks,” Hopkins told the city. “We’re working on plans for a specialized building and hope to have ground broken in 18 months to two years.”
The current Magnuson Hopkins Eye Care clinic, located on Second Street just west of the post office, is in a landlocked location, and Hopkins said the business has grown to the point where they need a bigger location than what they could build at the present site.
“We need more room for what we have, and we’re landlocked where we are right now,” Hopkins said, noting that they are hoping to build a facility bigger than 5,000 square feet at the new location.
Hopkins said that the new business site will allow them to offer vision therapy for school-age children, bringing therapy that is currently available only in Sioux Falls or Omaha. The new building would have six exam rooms, two more than at the present location, and would be better designed to maximize the staff that will work at the new location.
“We’re going to try to maximize the staff that we’ll have, and I’m sure we’ll need extra staff,” Hopkins said.
When asked about the current location, Hopkins said he was not sure what Larry Magnuson will do with the building.
“He’s (retiring) the end of September, and we’ve talked for years that this is what we need to do,” Hopkins said. “Larry has talked about several options, but I’m not sure what he’ll do with the building.”
Hopkins will receive a $35,000 loan at no interest for the first two years. He said he wants to pay the loan off as soon as possible, “so we can turn it around for someone else.” If he needs to go a third year on the loan, he agreed to a 3 percent interest rate.
Councilman Matt Eischeid motioned to approve the loan request, adding that the purchase of the land be completed in 12 months and the building be completed within four years.
The Council discussed the use of LB840 funds and discussed Mayor Ken Chamberlain’s suggestion that agreements that are not executed within a certain time frame be brought back to the LB840 committee for approval.
“After three years on a project, they’ve likely changed in some fashion, and they should be sent back through the committee for approval,” Chamberlain said. “We should adopt a policy that if there is no activity for a certain number of months, it should come back.”
City finance director Nancy Braden thought that a recent decision by the Legislature would require a super-majority of the city council to approve such a policy change, and city attorney Amy Miller said she would look into the legal aspects of the potential change in policy.
The council also discussed a time limit for using funds to purchase land. City administrator Lowell Johnson said the possibility of a project that works in phases could be used to speculate or flip land purchases to another entity, which is not what the LB840 program is intended for.
“When you have a phased project and you have a situation where they purchase the land and then . . . they change their mind and flip it to someone else. We need to have some kind of poison pill so the money isn’t being used for speculation,” he said.
In other action, the Council:
– approved final reading of an amendment to municipal code relating to parking time limits on selected parking stalls along Third Street east of Main Street.
– rejected a bid on the Nebraska State water main replacement project.
– approved a request for a six-month extension for a Community Development Block Grant.
– approved change orders on the airport lift station and aquatic center projects.
– approved payment requests for the aquatic center and wastewater treatment facility improvement projects.
– went into executive session to discuss the possible purchase of alley property from Jason Schulz.
The City Council’s next meeting is Tuesday, July 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Council chambers.