Tillable county-owned land near Hillside Country Living, in three separate parcels totaling 152 acres, is now for rent.
The parcels include those that were proposed for sale in 2017, with some slight variations in size. That proposed sale sparked a public outcry that caused the commissioners to withdraw the proposed sale, and its handling by commissioners was cited as a motivating factor for Bryan resident Scott Lirot to make an unsuccessful run for commissioner last year.
The Williams County Commissioners have posted an advertisement for the acreage and commissioner Lew Hilkert confirmed the land is for rent at the commissioners’ Monday meeting. He said the minimum bid is $125 per acre, and bids, along with proof of liability insurance, are due no later than 10 a.m. Oct. 21.
Parcel One (073-220-00-009.000) is about 88 tillable acres north of I.50 and east of the Hillside campus, 09876 County Road 16.
Parcel Two (073-150-00-007.000) is about 58 tillable acres northeast of the intersection of county roads 16 and J, excluding a small, approximately 12-parcel area that is the site of the Hillside Aeromodelers club.
Parcel Three (073-210-00-002.000) is about 16 tillable acres west and southwest of the Jefferson Township building, 9991 County Road 16.
Commissioners in early May 2017 first proposed selling about 86 acres of county-owned land near Hillside in two parcels: 62.0305 acres northeast of the intersection of county roads 16 and J and north of Opdycke Park, and 24.55 acres along County Road 16 northwest of Hillside.
Commissioners passed a resolution May 18, 2017, in a split 2-1 vote, with commissioners Brian Davis and Terry Rummel in favor and commissioner Lew Hilkert opposed. At the time, Hilkert said in light of discussions about the need for a multi-million dollar sewer system for Alvordton and Kunkle, he favored a 1031 land exchange process.
Commissioners set an auction date, then later rescinded the resolution when they sliced off about 12 acres from the 62-acre parcel so the Hillside Aeromodelers could retain their club site.
The land in question has been owned by the county for more than 100 years, and Davis said in 2017 that since it’s not being used, the land would bring more value to county taxpayers through sale, with the funds plowed back into upgrading Hillside Country Living, a county-owned senior care community.
But more than a dozen residents protested various aspects of the sale during several commissioner meetings in the late spring of 2017.
“... you should never sell park land. Never. It is too hard to replace,” Bryan resident Dick Brickel said at the time.
In one compromise discussed in spring 2017, residents had agreed to try and raise an estimated $150,000 within 12 months to buy the larger parcel and incorporate it into adjacent Opdycke Park, with the additional stipulation that the entire park be deeded and recorded, as questions were also raised about whether the land recognized as Opdycke Park is actually formally deeded and recorded.
But in an early June 2017 meeting, after a brief discussion, commissioners unanimously agreed to scrap the sale altogether.
Until last month, the parcels were in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and the county received about $3,000 a year, after taxes, from the CRP. Lirot had questioned whether the county was in compliance with the CRP and also said he had issues with commissioners’ attitudes, motivating him to oppose Davis in the 2018 election, which he lost 43.5 percent to 56.5 percent.
Hilkert said Monday with the CRP expired, “we chose not to re-enroll (the land into the CRP) and felt we could receive more income by renting it to local farmers.”
Hilkert said he expected the land to draw at least moderate interest, because “there’s not that much land for sale (in Williams County).”
The parcels for rent do not include the Opdycke Park Barn or the parkland adjacent to it.
The successful bidder will be required to sign a three-year renewal lease agreement and will have possession of property upon completion and signing of said agreement. The commissioners have the right to accept or reject any or all bids.
For bid packets, contact Hillside Country Living, 9876 County Road 16, Bryan.