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Pictured is the Maroney Commons building in Howard. (Republic file photo)

Howard's Maroney Commons to be auctioned

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HOWARD -- A $6.5 million facility in Howard once envisioned as a gathering place for rural development will be sold next month to the highest bidder.

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Maroney Commons will be sold at auction on-site at 10 a.m. April 4. The facility closed for financial reasons in September 2012, barely a year after it opened, and has remained shut ever since. An open house will be held in advance of the auction, from 1 to 4 p.m. March 23.

Maroney Commons has a 24-room hotel, restaurant and fitness center, with classrooms intended to be used for community and workforce development training programs, and conference space. It was built by a now non-existent organization known as the Rural Learning Center, whose leaders anticipated the facility would host industry training programs and other events.

"This town has taken such a beating," said Pat Maroney, a local businessman for whom the facility is named, in an interview Thursday with The Daily Republic. "It would be good to see something positive happen."

The building will be auctioned by Chuck Sutton, an auctioneer based in Sioux Falls, with help from two other auctioneers, Wayne Bessman, of Madison, and Terry Haiar, of Alexandria. In addition to the purchase price of the real estate, the buyer will have to pay $75,000 for the furniture, fixtures and kitchen equipment, as well as the electronic equipment included with the building, according to a listing on Sutton's website.

The facility was named for Maroney because he pledged $1 million to be left to the facility upon his death. He also purchased $125,000 in stock in the facility and donated $10,000 for a room in the facility, and donated a lot on the south side of the building worth $3,500.

"I lost all my money," he said, referring to his investments in the building, in an interview Thursday with The Daily Republic. "But, I'd like to see it amount to something on the second time around."

Maroney Commons towers above the other buildings on Howard's Main Street and is located on the site of the town's former Legion Hall. Many of the materials from that building were recycled and used in the construction of the building.

It was built with a commercial scale wind-turbine, photovoltaic solar panels, geothermal heating and a thermal solar water-heating system. It also collects rainwater and snowmelt, which is used in its bathrooms. It has a green roof with a garden of native prairie flowers and grasses planted in 30 inches of soil, which helps cool the building and collect rainwater runoff.

The facility was largely funded through loans, including a $3.2 million loan awarded by the federal government's USDA Rural Development Program. Up to 90 percent of that money, which is actually loaned by Miner County Bank, is guaranteed by the federal government.

Additional funding for the project included a $1.04 million economic development loan through Heartland Consumer's Power District, which was funded with a USDA Rural Economic Development Loan in the amount of $740,000 and a grant of $300,000. That money came out of USDA Rural Development's regular funding directed to South Dakota.

Also included in the financing package was $100,000 from Grow South Dakota's revolving loan fund, $150,000 from the Northeast South Dakota Economic Corp., and equity from the Rural Learning Center and numerous other investors.

In all, 30-plus organizations and individuals contributed to get the building constructed. The lenders who are stuck with the debt are now the ones selling the building.

"I would hope that it would maybe get back to it's original purpose, but I'm not sure," Maroney said. "It all depends on who ends up owning it."

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