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Howard's Maroney Commons finally sells

HOWARD -- Howard's embattled Maroney Commons has been sold.

Randy Parry, a former president of the Rural Learning Center, a now non-existent organization responsible for building the facility, confirmed the sale in an interview Wednesday with The Daily Republic. Calls made Wednesday to Judy Shaw, senior pastor at the Sioux Falls-based Center of Life Church, which Parry said was the buyer of the building, were not immediately returned.

"I think it's good," Parry said of the sale of the building. "It's back where it needs to be. It's another move in an economic direction."

Maroney Commons was built for $6.5 million in 2011 as a gathering place for rural development, but closed for financial reasons about a year later.

Maroney Commons towers above the other buildings on Howard's Main Street, and includes a 24-room hotel, restaurant and fitness center, and classrooms intended to be used for community and workforce development training programs, and conference space.

An attempt to sell the building at auction in April failed when it drew only one bid, of $125,000.

The building is located on the site of Howard's former Legion Hall. Many of the materials from that building were recycled and used in the construction of the building.

Maroney Commons 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 the ones who sold the building.