Albarran appointed to Sturgis commission

Alan Albarran was appointed Wednesday to the Sturgis City Commission. He replaces Brandon Kinsey, whose last meeting was that night. (Photo by Dan Cherry for Watershed Voice)

After several minutes of deliberation, the Sturgis City Commission on Wednesday selected Alan Albarran to succeed outgoing commissioner Brandon Kinsey.

Albarran was one of two candidates who sought appointment to the opening second precinct seat. Kinsey earlier in the fall announced his pending departure after two years on the commission, citing increasing career and family obligations.

Albarran and Rodger Moyer were interviewed two weeks ago by members of the commission, Mayor Jeff Mullins and city staff on why they would like to serve on the city commission.

On Wednesday, Mullins said before the vote that both candidates were optimal for the seat.

“You can’t go wrong with either one,” Mullins said.

Kinsey said he agreed.

“I was encouraged by both candidates,” he said. “Both are good for the precinct.”

Commissioner Robert Hile asked to abstain, as he said he hadn’t been present during the interview process and had not had a sufficient chance to speak with the candidates on which to base a vote. The general consensus of the commission was to honor Hile’s request.

Mullins said he encouraged whomever would not be appointed to seek seats on other city committees, such as the planning commission, where there are currently vacancies.

Following official nominations, there were five votes for Albarran and three for Moyer, with Hile abstaining.

Albarran will be sworn in and seated at the Nov. 8 meeting. The seat will come up for election in November 2024.

Hospital update

The sale of Sturgis Hospital to Asker Corp. is still pending, the commission was told Wednesday. The commission heard an update from city manager Andrew Kuk that the contract with Asker, a $3 million purchase agreement, is still being finalized. All parties have agreed to the final language in the drafted contract that would enable the for-profit entity to acquire the struggling hospital. The initial Oct. 23 deadline for payment has passed, but Kuk said the deal is “extremely close” to being closed. As of the meeting, the acquisition was expected as soon as Thursday, Oct. 26.

The commission approved the paperwork process as presented, with an open end on the final acquisition date through Nov. 1. That would give Kuk and city staff flexibility to close on the matter if a few extra days were required, without having to call a special city commission meeting.

The hospital has been in dire financial straits for several years, and has come close to closing on several occasions due to cash shortfalls. The hospital sought, and received a rural emergency hospital format to increase its ability to be more solvent as it searched for a buyer. Bonds owed to the city amounting to several million dollars will be absorbed by the city as part of the deal.

Other business

  • The city commission also approved the sale of the houses located at 306 John St. and 602 Jean Ave., both of which have been in city receivership and are in need of extensive repairs. The bids from Jose Lopez, $8,000 for 306 North St. and $12,000 for 603 Jean Ave., were accepted in a unanimous vote. City officials said Lopez intends to renovate both properties and rent one as a duplex, and rent or sell the other. As part of the approval, the city will give him 18 months to complete both houses, instead of the previous stipulation of one year. City staff remarked Lopez had purchased other property in the past and the resulting work was satisfactory.
  • The city commission unanimously approved an amendment to the city ordinance allowing tax exemption status for St. Joseph Lofts, effective Nov. 14. The payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) instrument will help the developer meet an eligibility requirement for tax credit funding to construct a 50-unit apartment complex at 303 St. Joseph St. in Sturgis, the site of the former Paramount Furniture Co. complex. The sprawling brick factory was destroyed in a 1996 fire, and the lot has sat vacant since. The developer, Ohio-based Spire, plans to apply for grant funding to build the complex that, if the funding is approved, would be built over a 15- to 18-month timeframe and be ready for occupancy in the winter of 2025-26.

Dan Cherry is a freelance journalist for Watershed Voice.