Ramsey County drops bid for arsenal

In the end, it was too much fixer, not enough upper.

A test vote by the Ramsey County board on whether it wanted to buy 430 acres of polluted ammo factory land failed this afternoon. Only three of the seven members on the board decided they were willing to commit to buying it for $6 million, and then be on the hook for a $22 million cleanup project.

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MPR photo/Jeffrey Thompson

The site (shown above) started out as a home for the Minnesota Vikings, and the acquisition and cleanup were to be funded as part of the stadium development. But with the Vikings sticking to the Metrodome site, the county needed to decide whether the fire sale price they’d negotiated for the land was worth taking on themselves.

“The Vikings were just the vehicle,” county board chair Rafael Ortega argued to his fellow commissioners. “What I’ve wanted all along was to get this site cleaned up.”

Supporter Tony Bennett said that at 430 acres, it was more than twice as big as any other developable tract in the Twin Cities and represented a potential commercial and maybe even residential boom.

But without the Vikings or a prospective developer waiting to take the land off their hands, it was just too big a risk, opponents said.

Commissioner Jim McDonough of St. Paul said the money might be better spent other places.

“I’m not prepared to tie up $22 million and get that site totally clean without any potential for development,” McDonough said. “If Ramsey County decides it wants to get into that type of business, then I would argue that we need to prioritize and list all the potentials for $22 million investment for economic development and then figure out what we want to do based on that priority.”

Others balked at the financing. The board had originally asked the state to fund the cleanup — a consolation prize for the losing Vikings bid.

Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt of White Bear Lake argued that putting local money into the deal might preclude state or local funding and that the county shouldn’t have the first dollar in.

“I really believe that we have more time,” she said. “I can’t imagine that the General Services Administration, after all of this time, and being this close, would not be willing to say ‘Ok, let’s go forward and see if the governor and the new legislature will provide that money to get this thing done’.”

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