STANLEY, N.D. – A group that includes Earl Pomeroy is proposing to build a much-needed City Hall in Stanley using a public-private partnership funding model.
Potential investors, an architect and Pomeroy, the former North Dakota Congressman who now works for a Washington, D.C., law firm, met with Stanley City Council members Tuesday to outline their idea.
Under the proposal, private investors would finance the construction of a new City Hall and lease the building to the city, said Pomeroy, legal counsel for Alston & Bird LLP. The agreement would allow the city the option to buy the building at some point in the future, Pomeroy said.
“It’s a way of easing some of the upfront costs for them,” Pomeroy said.
The architect who is part of the proposal is Dean Dovolis, whose company Annabelle Homes has developed housing and commercial projects in Stanley.
Infrastructure needs are significant in oil-impacted communities, but the property tax base and sales tax base in the communities haven’t caught up to support the growth, Dovolis said.
“It’s like the growth got ahead of the infrastructure,” he said.
Stanley Mayor Mike Hynek said the City Hall is nearly 100 years old with serious roof and heating and cooling problems that would be costly to repair.
“We feel we’re better off pursuing a better structure,” Hynek said.
If the city takes on the project itself, city leaders would likely issue bonds to finance it, Hynek said.
City Council members agreed Tuesday to move forward with studying the feasibility of the public-private financing.
Dovolis said the next step will be to determine the scale of the project and analyze the best financial model to deliver it.
One of the greatest advantages of the public-private partnership is “you can move fast,” Pomeroy said. In this case, the City Hall construction could begin as early as April, he said.
“There’s no way a project funded through any other means publicly developed could get a timeline like that,” Pomeroy said.
City Council member Dennis Lindahl said another advantage is the city wouldn’t be obligated to go through the traditional bidding process.
A preliminary rendering of City Hall includes apartments that would be aimed for city staff, hospital employees and other critical employees who struggle to find affordable housing in the Bakken.
Hynek said one of the questions for city leaders is whether they want to be involved with a building that has apartments.
Leaders also need to evaluate costs and determine if it’d be cheaper for the city to do the project on its own, Hynek said.
“I don’t think either way we’re putting the city out on a limb at all,” Hynek said. “I think it’s a very viable option. We just need to learn more.”
The Elion Fund, a national equity fund, is committed to financing the project under the partnership, Dovolis said.
Alston & Bird LLP would handle the legal arrangements for the partnership, Pomeroy said.
If the public-private partnership moves forward, the Stanley City Hall could become an example for other communities in the Bakken to follow, Pomeroy said. The model could potentially be used for school projects as well, he added.
“In those areas where there’s more present need than present cash, if there’s a very solid long-term prospect for financial cash flow, the public-private financing solution can be very helpful,” Pomeroy said.