Lease approved for city-owned property near Manchester exit

Last week, the City Commission voted to approve a lease of about 316 acres of city-owned property about 3.5 miles north of the Manchester exit for three years.

The city approved the lease to Ronald Laubach, the lone bidder, for $7,000 per year or $21,000 over the three-year lease term, which has an option for renewal.

Laubach bid on the lease in 2014, but was not selected. According to his testimony in 2014 and state records, Laubach owns property adjacent to the city property.

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The city has owned the land since 1991 as a potential landfill site. The city currently uses the High Plains Landfill leased by Montana Waste Systems and the city’s contract for that expires in 2025.

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In 1991, the city looked at about 50 properties and ultimately purchased two parcels north of Manchester for $149,708 as a potential future landfill site.

The parcels were approved for the Conservation Reserve Program in 1993 and annual rental payments received through that program totaled $122,901, according to the city.

The CRP program expired in 2011 for government properties so the city began considering a lease to the private sector.

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Arrow Kay Farms leased the property for the last five years but made the decision not to renew the lease.

In 2014, the city approved a five-year lease with Arrow Kay for $8,625 annually for a total of $43,125 over the term of the lease, according to city records.

During the commission’s April 2 meeting, staff said they didn’t have any indication from Arrow Kay as to why they chose not to renew the lease.

Continuing to lease the property keeps the city’s option open and allows the sanitation division to have leverage in future disposal contract negotiations with Montana Waste Systems, according to the staff report. A lease also continued to generate revenue for the sanitation division.

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Earlier this year, the city advertised for the lease on the city website, in the newspaper and mailed information to 21 prospective bidders. Only one bid was submitted.

The annual lease payment will go into the Sanitation Fund and would add additional funding for that division, according to the staff report.

Under the agreement, Laubach would be responsible for improvements, repairs, utilities and maintenance.