Sunday, June 16, 2024

Three Sisters now owned by city

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This is what the Three Sisters buildings in downtown Blue Earth currently look like.

The Blue Earth City Council granted city attorney David Frundt the authority to negotiate the return of the Three Sisters buildings to the city’s ownership on May 6.

Two weeks later, the council learned the results of Frundt’s negotiations at a meeting held on Monday, May 20.

“The buildings are ours at this point in time,” Frundt reported. “We do have to deal with the delinquent taxes to get the deed recorded – about $3,000 is due for the last four to five years.”

At the previous meeting, Frundt had explained to the council that the buildings’ previous owner, Project 3 Sisters, LLC, may not have the funds to pay the significant sum of delinquent taxes.

The council decided to prioritize regaining ownership of the buildings, and directed Frundt to negotiate with Project 3 Sisters, even if it meant the city would have to pay a portion of the taxes.

On May 20, Frundt told the council that Project 3 Sisters is insolvent.

“They don’t have a dime – I don’t think any of their entities have a dime,” he said. “But, they were willing to sign a deed right away, so we went ahead and did it.”

Frundt observed that some of the taxes owed are county and school district taxes.

“We will pay the county, and the county will give us our portions back,” he explained.

The council had previously been informed that the buildings are in very poor condition.

“The judge did sign a warrant for us to go through the property, and it is significantly deteriorated,” city administrator Mary Kennedy told the council on May 6. “It is really pretty heartbreaking walking through the buildings. They will need to come down.”

On May 20, Kennedy brought the council additional information about a Minnesota Demolition Loan Program which the Three Sisters buildings could qualify for.

“The application for that is due in August, and at this point that’s the best option we have to find out how much they’re going to cost to demolish,” Kennedy said. “We’ll go forward from there.”

The council also reviewed a detailed report and recommendations regarding the operation of Blue Earth Wine & Spirits, the city’s liquor store.

The report had been commissioned some time ago, when the council became concerned about the liquor store’s profits.

Council member Dan Ristau analyzed the store’s financials, hours of operation and staffing levels between Jan. 1 and April 30, and Kennedy brought several recommendations to the council based on Ristau’s report.

Noting that many of the store’s slower periods occur in the morning and late evening on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Kennedy recommended adjusting the liquor store’s hours of operation.

Currently, the store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on those days, but she suggested changing its hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Kennedy also recommended opening the liquor store an hour later on Friday and Saturday, at 10 a.m.

Noting that sales are profitable all day on Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Kennedy recommended maintaining the store’s Sunday hours. However, she thought staffing could be adjusted during that time.

“Currently, up to two part-time employees are being scheduled on Sunday, but it is more beneficial to have one person working than two employees on Sunday,” she said.

Other recommendations included adjusting the manager’s hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a one-hour lunch break, and adjusting the full-time clerks’ shifts so they overlap as little as possible.

The council approved the recommendations, and directed Kennedy to discuss the changes with liquor store manager Dave Olson.

“I think it’s appropriate, looking at the operations out there and the sales,” mayor Rick Scholtes said.

In other business, the Blue Earth City Council:

• Received an update from city engineer Ben Rosol about ongoing projects in Blue Earth.

He said four-foot fencing in front of the bleachers at the improved Putnam Park tennis courts has been approved with the project’s contractor, and fence installation is expected to start next week.

Rosol also reported that the contractor for the 2024 Street Improvement Project has started installing temporary waterlines for applicable residents.

He said plans for the Riverside Heights project were expected to be submitted to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for review by the end of the week.

• Received an update from Frundt regarding negotiations over a special assessment appeal involving two local parcels.

Both parcels had been assessed for a total of $28,500, but the city settled at an $11,000 assessment for the parcels. The council approved the stipulated settlement agreement.

• Discussed recent vandalization at the city’s dog park, which has resulted in the park being closed to the public for two spans of three to four days.

The council requested that police chief Tom Fletcher install a few trail cameras at the park to see if the individual who is causing the damage can be identified.

• Discussed Nortech Systems’s recent announcement that it will be closing its facility in Blue Earth.

Scholtes informed the council that himself, Ristau, Kennedy and EDA specialist Amy Schaefer intend to tour the facility and begin searching for a new tenant.

• Passed Resolution 24-16, which authorizes the sale of $5,080,000 in general obligation bonds.

The bonds will finance various improvement projects within the city, as well as the renovation and equipping of the new City Hall and the acquisition of capital equipment for the city.

The sale is set for June 17, at 10 a.m.

• Set the public hearing and second reading for the sale of 105 and 107 Butterfly Court for the next City Council meeting on Monday, June 3.

E & J Rentals, LLC, wants to purchase the two lots for $10,000.

• Set the public hearing and second reading for the sale of two lots at the Fairview Heights Addition for June 3.

Phillip and Brenda Underbakke intend to purchase both lots for $1.

• Approved an ordinance setting the council members’ annual compensation at $6,000, and the mayor’s annual compensation at $7,200.

• Approved an ordinance to amend the City Charter so the council members’ and mayor’s salaries can be approved by ordinance, not resolution. The changes will bring that portion of the Charter up to code.

• Appointed Jarod Mathiason to the Blue Earth Economic Development Authority.

• Hired Missy Huber and Cory Dean as part-time liquor store clerks.

• Approved temporary liquor licenses for the Blue Earth Kiwanis Club and the Blue Earth Eagles, and a temporary beer license for the Blue Earth Pirates.

• Approved permit applications from Bummy’s BBQ and Sunny’s Ice Cream Truck.

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