Moorhead City Council decides on shelter tonight
Churches United for the Homeless officials will have their fingers crossed at tonight's Moorhead City Council meeting. That's when they will hear whether they will be allowed to move their downtown Moorhead homeless shelter to the former ...
Churches United for the Homeless officials will have their fingers crossed at tonight's Moorhead City Council meeting.
That's when they will hear whether they will be allowed to move their downtown Moorhead homeless shelter to the former Plunkett's Furniture building at 1901 1st Ave. N.
Shelter officials are asking for a conditional use permit for the $2 million project, as well as $162,500 in city grant funds for low-income housing.
An informal poll of council members showed four members planned to support the move -- John Rowell, Lauri Winterfeldt-Shanks, Greg Lemke and Jim Danielson. Two said they still had concerns about the project -- Morrie Kelsven and Nancy Otto. And Brian Gramer said he was undecided.
Calls Friday and Saturday to Larry Nicholson's work and home telephone numbers were not returned.
Five votes of approval are needed for the permit and six for the grant funds.
The shelter is eligible for the money, despite its affiliation with local churches, because the funding would not be used for church-related programs, said Lisa Vatnsdal, the city's community development planner.
Churches United has been considering the move because it would cost an estimated $1 million less to renovate the Plunkett's building than to fix up its site at 203 6th St. S.
The Moorhead Planning Commission split on the issue, voting 4-3 to recommend denial of the permit, and several council members also have expressed concerns about the location, on the corner of two busy streets in an industrial area.
But calls from shelter volunteers convinced Winterfeldt-Shanks to support the shelter's move to Plunketts.
"I think it's a chance for us as a council to stand up and say to the community who works at Churches United, to say we're going to work with you," she said.
Not all council members are so enthusiastic.
Kelsven said he's seen too many car and pedestrian run-ins to approve the location.
"I worked life safety 34 years of my life in the (Moorhead) Fire Department, and to me they're asking for someone to get run over," he said. He wants Churches United to find a new home, but this one isn't the right one, he said.
Rowell stands somewhere between those two positions. He would prefer the shelter stay in his own neighborhood, where it would be more convenient for its clientele, and where residents and business owners are already used to it.
But the idea of building a new shelter on a city-owned parking lot at Second Avenue and Sixth Street South, east of the Moorhead Public Library, turned out to be too expensive, he said.
The architects' estimate for new construction was around $3 million, said Gary Groberg, the shelter's executive director.
So Rowell said he plans to support the move, because he thinks shelter officials can address safety and business concerns.
"Look, they can't stay where they are -- the building is not worth putting any more money into," Rowell said. "We have to find them a home."
But Otto still isn't convinced, either that the Plunkett's location is a good one, or that the idea to build on the city-owned lot should be abandoned.
She thinks a second opinion may show a new building may not be as expensive as Churches United has been told.
"Why would they want to tear our community apart when there is another option?" she said.
But Churches United officials believe, after searching the community, that the Plunkett's option is the best one, Groberg has said.
"From our point of view it's really cut and dried -- we know we need to move and we found a site that minimizes many potential problem situations," he said in an interview Friday.
"We have our fingers crossed."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Joy Anderson at (701) 241-5556