North Second Street De Soto potential city hall

De Soto has acquired these two buildings, on North Second Street just west of City Hall, for potential future expansion of municipal facilities.

With an eye to future expansion of its municipal government “footprint,” the city of De Soto has acquired two buildings directly across from City Hall.

In August, the city closed on the purchase of a one-story building at 116 Second St., one block west of City Hall and immediately north of the city fire house.

Three months earlier the city bought a building further north on the block, at 120 Second St., which is a much larger brick structure formerly known as the Knights of Pythias building.

The city paid $55,000 for each property, $110,000 in all.

Small businesses still are using both buildings. Schaper’s Tax Service and From the Inside Out Counseling occupy the building at 116 Second St., while Klassy Kurl salon operates out of the first floor of 120 Second St.

City Manager Todd Melkus said the businesses have leased their space through the end of the year and will probably convert to a month-to-month lease in 2021.

“If we were to expand ever, whether it be an administration building, or even possibly additional parking at some point, we felt that long term it was a priority to get those buildings purchased in case we would do something in the future,” Melkus said. “It could be five years, 10 years, who knows? There’s no plan; we have no drawings or architectural designs or anything at this point. It’s just looking toward the long-term future of the area.”

Melkus said the city will work with the business tenants if and when the time comes for them to move.

“I’ve reached out to the counselor over email and she was glad to hear we weren’t doing anything right away, but she also understands at some point possibly down the road she might have to find a new space to rent,” Melkus said. “When that time comes, I’ll do everything I can to help them find something. You don’t want to just close the door on them and not help them. We don’t want them to leave town or anything.”

One complication in the city’s future use of the Knights of Pythias building is that while it may have historical value, much of the structure has suffered from neglect.

“Unfortunately the building has just been let go into disrepair,” Melkus said. “It’s a tough situation to where you hate to see a historical building ever be taken down. But on the opposite side of that coin, it could take millions and millions of dollars to renovate that building and get it up to code.

“We’ll see what happens. We’re a long way from making any decisions there. We’ll definitely try to take everything we can into consideration. We don’t want another situation like what I’ve been told has happened in the past, like with the train depot. When that (building) got taken down, a lot of people weren’t happy about it. We’ll obviously be smart about it and not make any quick decisions.”

Waiting game continues with Union Pacific

The furlough of about 200 to 300 employees at the Union Pacific Car Shops in De Soto continues. The company sent the workers home on May 4, citing an “unprecedented” decline in business operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Union Pacific has passed at least two dates for reconsidering business conditions and a possible return to work for the employees.

Some movement of cars has continued at the site, Melkus noted.

“Unfortunately, I have not heard any updated info at this point,” he said. “The last time I spoke with Ben Jones (a company spokesman), all he told me was that Sept. 1 was going to be the first possible date that they’d be going back to full staff. But I haven’t heard anything from him since (then). It’s been a broken record; every time I talk to them they just push it off another month or two.”