CLARIFICATION: The last two paragraphs of the editorial below have been rewritten to reflect that no taxpayer money goes to support Northfield Hospital and, that it is hospital officials' position that Northfield Hospital's value would indeed suffer if it were sold.
Times were different in 1998 when the city of Northfield invested $2.2 million funded by general obligation bonds to help construct the $6.6 million Northfield Community Resource Center.
The real estate market was growing, and the city could afford to invest money in a building to house valuable community nonprofit organizations.
But that’s no longer the case.
Months ago, an ad hoc finance committee looking at the city’s books, suggested the city consider selling the NCRC, specifically to the organizations that found a home there.
Last week, three organizations — Northfield Community Action Center, Northfield Senior Center and Three Rivers Community Action — rejected purchasing the building from the city, and instead offered a proposal to take over management of it.
The groups originally had that responsibility but the city took it over in 2004. Now, the organizations would like to resume that role and in turn hire a private entity to help manage the building.
While that gets the city part of the way out of spending taxpayer resources on non-core functions, it doesn’t go far enough. The city still awards significant annual rent discounts to all three entities and has to continue to do so under an existing agreement until 2015. For now, the city also still pays for all the maintenance, inside and out.
There is no question that each of these entities provides a valuable service to the community. They are, without question, part of what makes Northfield the city it is, with a broad and diverse range of services for its residents.
But these are not core services like public safety and public works. It is streets, sewer, water, police and fire upon which the city must focus its dwindling resources, as Northfield’s leaders struggle to balance its budget and deal with declining state aid.
In the same way Northfield Hospital’s value to the community would not diminish were the city to sell it — although this point is strongly disputed by Northfield Hospital officials who believe its value would decline — neither would the value of any of the nonprofits housed in the NCRC.
But the city would gain in eliminating the NCRC as a liability.