By Louis Hoglund

A new commercial enterprise will set up shop in Pelican Rapids at the former Senior Citizens Club building. 

Hillbilly Laser, a specialty printing operation on a steady growth path, purchased the building from the city. 

The Pelican Rapids City Council voted 4-1 November 3 to sell the building for about $20,000. 

The lone “no” vote was Mayor Brent Frazier, who generally believed the sale was premature, as there may be options for continuing to operate the facility as a public space. 

But a majority of the council approved the sale at a previous meeting by a 4-1 vote. All that remained were the terms of the sale, which were ironed out on Nov. 3—and the vote to sell to Grefsrud was again 4-1.

Grefsrud is buying a building that needs a lot of work. A new roof is expected to cost at least $75,000. Heating-air improvements will be necessary at an uncertain cost. Entryway improvements will be needed. Based on past history, annual operating and overhead expenses are about $4,500. 

On top of that, there are remodeling expenses to adapt the building to Grefsrud’s needs. 

The senior citizen meal program would continue in the building, with the firm Nutritional Services Inc (NSI) renting space for preparing and delivering the meals from the site. NSI currently pays $300 a month to rent the kitchen from the city. 

After a back-and-forth discussion, the two parties arrived at a $19,500 sale price, plus half of the legal and real estate recording fees. 

Because the building and lot are a tight footprint, the city council also agreed to include an easement on city-owned land for the north access to the building. 

Otter Tail County placed a taxable market value on the property of $75,000, which was increased by the assessor’s office to $159,000 last year. 

The council disregarded the higher value as an unrealistic number for the condition of the property. 

The city has set a pattern of divesting city property, agreeing to sell the upper level of city hall to Vertin-Larson Funeral Home. About ten years ago, the city sold the former liquor store building to the Mercantile on Main group. Before the building changes hands, an issue with Otter Tail Power will need to be resolved. Due to a damaged underground power line, a line was temporarily run overhead—from Rapids Brake and Alignment to the senior building. 

The council also voted to earmark the money from the sale to a reserve fund—to be applied to a feature community center.

With the sale of the top floor of city hall and now the senior building, there is no immediate plan, and there are no current public spaces available. 

Meanwhile, the sale of the senior building also stalls out plans for a “community-commercial kitchen.” The kitchen was an initiative by “Local Foods, Local Places” aimed at filling a need for the growing specialty food trend—ranging from canning to catering. 

Initially, an inspector said that the senior building wasn’t compatible with housing both the senior meals program and a commercial rental kitchen. 

This earlier information further cemented the city council’s negotiations with Grefsrud. 

However, a follow-up public health inspection confirmed that the kitchens could function together—under certain scheduling and operations conditions. 

But the second inspection came very late in the process, as the city was on the verge of sealing a deal with Lana Grefsrud and her Hillbilly Laser company. 

Grefsrud said she would begin immediately on renovating the senior building, with plans to be operational by spring. 

Grefsrud’s business has outgrown its rural Pelican location, and growth has been far ahead of her projections.