Britt's Mayor, Ryan Arndorfer, answered questions about a new hotel and the commercial park among other topics during his first "Happy Hour," at the Britt Bar & Grill.
Arndorfer said the "Council on the Move," in which the city council meetings are held at different locations in the community and "Happy Hour with the Mayor" are attempts to improve communication between the city and its residents as a part of their strategic planning for the future of Britt.
He stated communication was one of the key things the council wanted to address.
“We’re really just here to answer any questions, listen to any concerns or complaints you guys have,” Arndorfer said. “It’s hard for people to make council meetings all the time…so we wanted to give you guys another way to interact.”
The first question asked was regarding the new hotel.
Arndorfer said the city had held a meeting with the hotel developer from Boulders Hotel, along with potential investors as well with Hancock County Economic Development.
“Basically, [Boulders Hotel] is looking for about $400,000 to $450,000 in local investments,” Arndorfer said.
Arndorfer said several people were interested or wanted to invest. He added by getting those people connected with the hotel group he thought the hotel was a strong possibility in Britt’s future.
“I think we’re getting closer. I think it will happen,” he said. “It’s just getting the right people to put some money forward. The City agreed to put money forward as well.”
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The hotel would ideally be built on a lot on U.S. Highway 18, in the commercial park, Arndorfer said. He added he is expecting to have investors in place by next year to start working on the hotel.
“The hotel is obviously our big wish list item we want to accomplish and getting properties built in the commercial park,” he said.
While on the topic of the commercial park, there are currently six lots in the park. The City is renting a lot to Pritchard's Family Auto in Britt for $1,300 a month to store some of their inventory.
“Basically, what that does is it recoups the money that we gave to [Britt Industrial Development Corporation] for advertising…to sell those lots,” Arndorfer said. “We kind of looked at it as a way to bring some income, otherwise they’re just sitting there empty. So we thought we had the opportunity to make a little money. Seemed like the right thing to do.”
Arndorfer said when the whole process of setting up the commercial park, from the roads, infrastructure, lawyer fees for doing the plan, cost $1.2 million for its development, and it is in a tax increment financing (TIF) district.
“What it means is once someone starts to build there, the City will actually certify the $1.2 million in debt we took on to build the commercial park,” he said. “The taxes they pay, rather than going directly to the county or the state, we get the larger portion of that back first because of the money we invested. So anything that’s in the TIF district, we have the ability to do that, so once something gets built there, then we can start recouping the money we spent to develop it.”
Besides the hotel, Arndorfer said the City has had one other person seriously looking at one or two lots in the commercial park, since they are not sure what size building they need to build. Arndorfer said he expected it to be figured out by next year.
Additionally, Alliant Energy has bought some property at Hwy. 18. They now have some heavy equipment there working and taking down trees, according to Arndorfer. They have to build three retention ponds and remove “quite a bit of trees." Arndorfer said it’ll be a nice change of scenery coming into Britt from the east.
Happy Hour with the Mayor will be held the first Wednesday of every month.