RAPID CITY n Despite meeting behind closed doors for more than an hour to discuss M Hill, city officials remain mum about today's auction of 370 acres of land around the highly visible Rapid City property.
A scheduled discussion of travel policy was scrapped by the city council at the last minute Monday night so the council could meet in executive session about M Hill.
"Travel is an important discussion, but discussion of M Hill is far more important," Alderman Sam Kooiker said.
Nine Liens Partnership will auction 370 acres of land on and around Cowboy Hill, which includes property around M Hill, which takes its name from the large white M on its eastern face. The partnership consists of the nine sons and daughters of Chuck Lien, co-founder and chairman of Pete Lien & Sons, the Rapid City minerals and building materials company.
The partnership is selling the land in order to use the proceeds to buy out Bruce Lien's half of Pete Lien & Sons. The property will be auctioned as one piece, five pieces and nine pieces. The combination that brings in the highest price will receive the land.
Council president Tom Johnson said that he couldn't talk about what was discussed in executive session because it could harm the city's negotiating position before the auction, which will be 10 a.m. today at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Last week Mayor Jim Shaw speculated the city might consider buying all or parts of the property from whoever is awarded the bid at the auction.
Some city council members have indicated the city has about $1.7 million available in federal transportation money that could be used to buy property for greenway and pedestrian or bike path expansion. However, if it proceeds with that plan, the city would have to use existing money for a land purchase and then be reimbursed later from the federal funds.
Over the past several weeks, city officials have been trying to form a plan to preserve the land as public open space.
After the closed meeting, assistant city attorney Joel Landeen said the council could make an offer pursuant to Option A or enter negotiations concerning Option B.
The council voted to move forward with Option B but did not share details about either option.
Several individuals praised the council's decision on Monday, though it is unclear what the council decided.
"I think you've probably found through the last several weeks that there is broad public support for the purchase of that property. Thank you very much for your vision of what that will do for Rapid City," Roger Heacock of Rapid City said.
Bill Kessloff of Rapid City thanked the city for considering preservation of the hillside.
"It would be a real legacy if this could happen," he said.
Contact Scott Aust at 394-8415, or email@example.com