Oneida County committee members had the opportunity earlier this week to tour the Petco warehouse in Rhinelander, which closed its doors earlier this year.
4/13/2019 7:30:00 AM Highway committee votes down proposal to study Petco space
Mario Koran Of the River News
The Oneida County Highway Committee said no Thursday to a proposal to pay $15,000 to study whether the massive warehouse in Rhinelander vacated by Petco should become a new home for the highway department and other county agencies.
In a 3-1 vote, committee members chose not to pursue the study, delivering a major blow to the plan's viability. The proposal heads to the county board today, but without the support of the highway committee.
Committee members last week had a chance to walk through the 170,000 square-foot warehouse, 70,000 of which would be occupied by the highway department. Other county agencies and private business could take up other parts of the space.
If the county moves forward on the plan, the highway department would revisit a previous offer of $2.3 million Kwik Trip made to buy its current site.
Supervisor and highway committee member Scott Holewinski said the massive warehouse was more space than the highway department needed.
"It's too big for us," Holewinski said. "I am not voting to spend any money on anybody to tell us that it's in this condition. The whole place is way too big for Oneida County to be even considering it. I'm not voting for spending one dime on this venture that everybody wants to get into."
Supervisor and committee chair Robb Jensen, the lone vote of support for the study, said he would like more information on the building and how much it would cost to remodel. But with the majority of the highway committee opposed, he said it may not make sense for the county board to move forward on it.
"Does this end the Petco proposal? Maybe yes, maybe no," Jensen told the River News last week. "If the overall feeling was that it didn't lend itself as a good fit for the highway department, why would you move forward with it?"
The $15,000 proposal headed to the county board today would fund an initial structural assessment. Further study would be required, however, putting the total cost to study the building much higher.
"It'll be closer to $65,000 when we're all said and done for the study to remodel that building," supervisor committee member Mike Timmons said.
Holewinski took issue with the idea of taking the Petco facility, valued at about $4 million, off the tax rolls.
"You can't tell me that would be a benefit for the city of Rhinelander," he said.
But Jensen argued that if Kwik Trip purchased the highway department property and future developments nearby raised its value, the county could come out ahead.
"You could argue we'd be taking $4 million off the tax roll then putting $8 million back on," he said.
The once-bustling warehouse, operated for years by local pet supply giant Drs. Foster and Smith, has grown quiet since Petco announced in January it will be shutting its doors. Only a handfull of employees now occupy the largely vacant area.
Timmons said the building appeared to be in sound shape, but the cost to remodel would outweigh the benefits.
"The Petco building is an awesome warehouse," he said. "But my opinion is that it's too much work to change the facility from a warehouse to a garage."
Mario Koran may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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