About a dozen people attended the Jasper City Council meeting on Oct. 12, many of them to find out what would happen to the Stonewall Bar and Grill property and the former Jasper bowling alley property at 116 Wall Street West.
The city was considering selling the former bowling alley property to Kyley Mills, owner of the Stonewall Bar and Grill, so she could build a new bar there. Early in the meeting, the city council entered into closed session with the city’s attorney Ben Denton to discuss a transaction involving the former bowling alley property.
When the council reopened the meeting, things took an unexpected turn. Denton informed those in attendance that when the city purchased the former bowling alley property from the Jasper Development Corporation (JDC) in 2019 for $30,000, that sale, based on his interpretation of state statute, was not valid.
“There are some contracts between a city and others that are not valid under the law, even if the people who should abstain did abstain,” Denton said. “Also, some of those contracts that are not valid under the law can’t be cured after the fact. A lot of them can, but some of them cannot. This is one of them that’s a void contract under the law and under the law it can’t be cured after the fact.”
He said after the meeting that the issue was that Mayor Mike Baustian is also the president of the JDC and even though he abstained from voting on the matter, the sale is not valid because he was part of the local government body that purchased the property and the nonprofit organization that sold it to the city.
That being the case, Denton recommended that the council cancel the purchase, which the council voted 3 – 0 to do, with Baustian not voting and Councilor Jeff Leslie absent.
“I genuinely don’t think anybody had any intents of doing anything here that was not above board,” Denton said.
With the former bowling alley property back in the hands of the JDC, City Clerk/Treasurer Cortney Kounkel, who also serves as the JDC secretary/treasurer, said Thursday, Oct. 14 that she was writing a check from the JDC to the city for the purchase price of the property.
Mills was not at the council meeting, but said later in the week that she now plans to work with the JDC on potentially purchasing the former bowling alley property for a new location for her business. She said she has not yet determined what she will do with the current Stonewall Bar and Grill property.
Some of the people who were at the council meeting expressed concerns during the community concerns portion of the meeting about that property. Those who spoke were limited to three minutes and Denton asked those in attendance to keep it civil after people argued and spoke over each other during the September council meeting. If they didn’t, he said they could potentially face criminal charges for disrupting the council’s business. All who spoke kept it civil and no one interrupted.
Reclaim Community President Elicia Kortus said the nonprofit organization was not opposed to new construction, but that she was concerned about preserving Jasper’s historic buildings. Barb Brooks also spoke in support of preserving the city’s historic buildings.
“I do not want the town torn down and I’ll fight for it to the day’s end,” Brooks said.
Kizzy Clem had asked during the September council meeting if the city would be willing to purchase the two buildings on either side of the former bowling alley property, one of which she and her husband Joe own, to facilitate the new bar. The council had asked the Clems to present a proposal for their property, but Kizzy said with the JDC now the owners of the former bowling alley property, their proposal was no longer valid because it was addressed to the city. Joe said that Richard Rieck, who owns the other neighboring property, asked him to tell the council that he was not interested in selling his property to the city.
Kristin Kallsen also spoke in support of preserving “the primary things of value” in Jasper.
“We don’t need just another little eye sore on the prairie,” she said. “You’ve got something special and something to be proud of.”
Shari Enger said she loves the historic buildings and thinks they’re beautiful, and appreciated Reclaim Community’s efforts to preserve them, but was concerned about how social media was being used in the debate between those with differing opinions.
“I think there is a lot of defamation going on, there’s a lot of finger pointing, there is some untruth that’s being stated,” she said.