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Janesville councilman questions farmland leases

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 13, 2011
— Janesville City Council members asked staff on Monday to investigate whether farmers pay a fair price to lease vacant industrial land owned by the city.

Councilman Bill Truman said he was approached by a farmer who complained that the farmer was unable to bid on renting city-owned land.


The farmer told Truman prices charged by the city are far below fair market.


City staff told council members that four of the six farmers leasing city land pay $50 an acre, while the private sector lease rate ranges from $185 to $200.


One farmer pays $75 an acre while another pays $100 an acre.


The land is in the city's TIF districts, so the money is returned there.


Farmers do not bid on the leases but instead renew them annually Nov. 15.


"The last four years I was on the council, this is one item that slipped by me completely," Truman said. "We are way down on the market value of our farmland."


Truman said the council should discuss charging farmers fair market value and putting the land out for bid.


Council member George Brunner said the council should take a look at the fairness and equity to all farmers who wish to lease land.


"If we've got some prime land there, we should put (it) out for highest lease bid in the taxpayer's interest," Brunner said.


Levitt said staff would clarify the circumstances with each lease because they appear to include mitigating circumstances.


Current leases include:


-- Kirk Leach, $50 an acre for 47 acres in the area of Wuthering Heights and Capital Circle.


-- Randy Hughes, $75 an acre for 225 acres at Highway 11 and County G.


-- Robert Mullikin, $50 an acre for 21 acres at Enterprise Drive and Highway 11.


-- David Arndt, $50 an acre for five acres at Beloit Avenue and Venture Drive.


-- James Quade, $100 an acre for 31 acres in the area of Kennedy Road.


-- Tom Metcalf, $50 an acre for 74 acres at Beloit Avenue and Venture Drive.



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