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Jefferson County works with Nestle-Purina on land deal

Article originally appeared in the Watertown Daily Times and can be found here

JEFFERSON — The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday showed its support of a large, longstanding community business when it agreed to possibly sell a substantial parcel of county-owned land to Nestle-Purina.

Nestle-Purina has long had a large factory presence on the south side of Jefferson and said it needs about 25 acre on the city’s southwest side for future storage that has close proximity to its factory, State Highway 26 and Opportunities Inc. in Fort Atkinson. Opportunities does packaging for Nestle-Purina.

The parcel is located south of the county’s relatively new highway facility on County Highway W and is approximately 25 acres. It is part of the county farm.

The resolution authorizes Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier to enter into an “option to purchase real estate agreement” with Nestle-Purina to provide for its future storage needs. The option to purchase would require Nestle-Purina to pay to the county $5,000 in the first year, $5,250 in the second and $5,500 in the third.

“If Nestle-Purina exercises its option to purchase in Year One, the price per acre would be $20,000. If exercised in Year Two, the price per acre would be $21,000 and if exercised in Year Three, the price per acre would be $22,000,” the resolution stated. If this option to purchase is exercised during the growing season, Nestle-Purina will pay the current lessee of this property for any resulting reasonable business losses. They also guarantee that the current lessee, an agricultural producer, is made whole, if the option is executed at any time during the growing season.”

The total acreage for the county farm is presently 346 acres.

Supervisor Walt Christensen, who represents a portion of the Fort Atkinson area, urged his colleagues on the board to vote against the potential sale. Christensen said the area being considered for the sale consists of high-quality farmland and for several reasons, including the county’s support of agriculture, as well as the land’s monetary value as-is, the county should retain it.

Richard Jones, chairman of the county’s finance committee, said that the land in question is “isolated” from the existing county farm’s main section and it is not the intent of Nestle-Purina to construct buildings on the parcel. He said it will be used for vehicle storage.

The Jefferson County Finance Committee considered the parameters of the agreement in closed session on April 7 and recommended forwarding the resolution to the county board by a unanimous vote.

When all was said and done Tuesday, the board voted 19-9-2 to execute the deal with Nestle-Purina. Voting against the agreement were supervisors Bruce Degner and Mark Groose of Ixonia, Jeff Johns of Farmington, Jeff Smith of Johnson Creek, Anita Martin of Lake Mills, Meg Turville-Heitz of Oakland, Joan Callan and Anthony Gulig of Fort Atkinson and Christensen. Absent were Kirk Lund and Steve Nass.

According to the resolution approved by the board of supervisors during a regular session for May on Tuesday evening, a strategic objective of Jefferson County is to support and facilitate the retention and expansion of existing businesses in the county. The resolution, as it was ratified, accomplishes this goal.

“Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium Staff, along with other partners, have been working with Nestle-Purina, a long-standing business located in the City of Jefferson, on capital investment options that may add to its employment base in Jefferson County,” the resolution stated. “One option discussed was the purchase by Nestle-Purina of a parcel of county-owned property to be potentially used as a location for added storage capacity if needed.”

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