Cavalier County Republican

Copyright © Langdon, North Dakota       Monday, December 24, 2012
(Reproduced with permission)

JDA loses bid on the Mickelsen Safeguard

The Cavalier County Job Development Authority (JDA) Office fell short on their bid to purchase the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Nekoma, but remain optimistic that they can form some kind of partnership with the new owner of the former anti-ballistic missile facility.

The facility was sold to an anonymous bidder last week for $530,000.

"It appeared to us that the price was going quite aways above what we felt would be a responsible use of public resources and funds," said JDA Director Carol Goodman. "We still have the $600,000 appropriation from the 2011 legislature, however, we felt that we should not continue to bid like a 'river boat gambler.' We take that responsibility very seriously!"

"We are waiting to find out who the successful bidder is."

With speculations and rumors buzzing throughout the community last week, the JDA office would like to address the public on areas such as: 1.) They have no idea who the new owner is. 2.) They are receptive to a partnership of some kind with a new owner. 3.) JDA is still the reserve bidder and their deposit is held until all of the paper work is complete for the site to transfer into a new ownership. 4.) That the tremendous amount of work that JDA has done in the past several years will be re-evaluated and will be used for a development of some kind in the community such as participating in the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) and UAB (Unmanned Aerial Base) development or pursuing data storage center opportunities.

In the month of January, the property was sent to General Services Administration (GSA) for disposal. GSA then proceeded to send the JDA office a draft offer to purchase, but there were some things in the initial draft that JDA wanted to propose to them starting with: 1.) The property could be transferred to them at no cost (reasoning being that the complex has sat vacant for well over 30 years) and that they weren't a private individual looking to make money off the deal. 2.) JDA was also looking for a reassurance that the government would take care of the environmental cleanup.

"Our primary concern was all the contaminated water lying dormant in the spartan silos."

"We needed an assurance that Cavalier County would not ever be liable for this kind of clean up. The government pretty much had an unfunded mandate to take care of this environmental clean up," Goodman stated.

According to Goodman, they could not get any of their proposals into an agreement with GSA. GSA then wanted a response in August as to whether they would purchase the property "as is." Considering that they had not yet received any assurance from GSA on the environmental cleanup, JDA decided that they did not want to put Cavalier County at risk and refused to purchase under those conditions.

On August 24, the state of North Dakota Health Department issued and sent a Notice of Violation to the Army pertaining the environmental issues.

"We asked GSA if they would hold off on the public auction part of this for 30-60 days until there was some kind of response or agreement between the Department of Health and the Army. They would not come to terms with us on that either," Goodman shared.

An auction process took place online in October with a closing date of December 4. According to Goodman the office sent their deposit over in the early part of November. "We got ourselves positioned and stepped in with our first bid and there was a handful of active bidders," she mentioned. As the auction moved toward the Dec. 4 closing date, any time a bid is made during the auction it sets a 24 hour clock and if the bid survives without a challenge in the 24 hour period the property would essentially be yours. "We went several days with the 24 hour clock being reset through the bidding until we got into this past week. It appeared that there were three of us remaining."

In 1998, the site was being reconsidered for a new generation of missile defense which had remained a topic of discussion throughout the 90's. In 1998 the Clinton Administration authorized the three plus three plan; three years of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) plus three years of deployment of a pilot project. At that time, the only place that it could take place was here at the SRMSC, due to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the former Soviet Union. The EIS was completed, and when the George W. Bush administration came in they reviewed the status of the treaty and decided to abrogate the treaty because the Soviet Union didn't exist anymore and also because defense systems have changed considerably. So the treaty disappeared in 2003 and the property was declared excess in 2004. Then began a long journey through the excess property process which JDA has been connected to or involved with as the status of the site progressed.

"We want people to have the facts of the events from this past year. Everybody knows that the site has passed through various stages of what was going to be done over the past eight years since it was declared to be excess property," Goodman added.

"It was about five years ago when we began our more active, much more intense development process which included: a feasibility study, national search for a redevelopment partner/engineering firm of record, master plan and analysis development for the site, parametric cost estimates; which gave us an idea of what it would cost to redevelop each of the six buildings, commissioned our own environmental site assessment (last spring) so that we had an independent third party assessment to bounce against what the government had put in their reports for environmental issues and, then we just completed a proof of concept for data storage development this fall.

"With all the exciting things going on in North Dakota, and with a 110,000 square feet of available building we really had a valuable property to offer and we were very excited to get started on this. The site has a remarkable infrastructure in place!"

According to Goodman, JDA felt that they were at a disadvantage when it came to bidding, because of the connection they have with the site which is accessible public information. "We didn't know anything about the other bidders that were participating in the bid," Goodman commented. They also had to approach the bidding slightly different since they are a public service and have to make very responsible decisions while private entities can have a different approach.

"We were prepared and positioned as anybody could be to hit the ground running with this; should the acquisition still work out for us.

"This office always take a positive approach to everything and we will continue to do so," Goodman concluded.