City-county sidewalk situation unresolved

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Say this for the Mower County Board of Commissioners: they stick to their guns.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Say this for the Mower County Board of Commissioners: they stick to their guns.

Email newsletter signup

A month ago, the county commissioners rejected Hormel Foods Corp.’s request to have a new sidewalk installed from the new Corporate Office South offices along Main Street North to the Security Bank Minnesota intersection at 11th Avenue.

The city of Austin went ahead and approved the request and new sidewalk will be installed this summer complete with a grass boulevard separating it from the street.

Now, county officials are fighting back in anticipation of the assessments to come from the sidewalk project … well, sort of fighting back.

On Tuesday, they almost agreed to sending the city a letter, questioning the city’s right to assess the county for the sidewalk improvements.

Not only did the letter fail to win the necessary support from the five-member board, but it came from what city officials would call a "suspicious source."

That would be Glen M. Jacobsen, Mower County chief deputy attorney, in public life.

However, he’s a well-known opponent of the city’s assessment policy in private life.

In his role as county chief deputy attorney, Jacobsen prepared a letter for the county commissioners.

The letter told of his review of the deed and plat map and the construction of the newly remodeled Corporate Office South headquarters in the old Kmart building on the west side of Main Street North and directly north of the Mower County-owned building housing the Department of Human Services, Public Health offices and Veterans Services office.

Jacobsen found the street right of way for Main Street North is 72 feet and that the street is only 50 feet wide, leaving about 11 feet of city-owned right-of-way on both sides of Main Street North.

"This is not property owned by Mower County subject to an easement for the street, but property that is owned outright by the city," Jacobsen said.

It would, presumably, be big enough to accommodate a grass boulevard and sidewalk in its 11-foot width.

Also, Jacobsen – on behalf of the county board – indicated the county would contest any assessment in excess of the increase in property value that accrues to the property as a result of the new sidewalk.

That – assessing only for the increase in property value due to a city improvement project – has been the crux of Jacobsen’s own arguments before the Austin City Council, when protesting assessments to city officials.

"We can go through with this letter or we can just throw it away, because you know what they’re going to do," said Ray Tucker, Second District county commissioner. "They’re going to assess for it."

Len Miller, Fourth District, and Richard P. Cummings, First District, both agreed the city has not been consistent with its sidewalk policy and pointed to the Austin Municipal Swimming Pool area as an example.

Garry Ellingson, Fifth District, wondered whether the city’s plans to build a sidewalk for Hormel Foods Corp. included a new in-drive.

The area is now a seamless asphalt parking lot for all of the businesses. The county commissioners had objected to turning a portion of it into a sidewalk was arbitrary and capricious and would result in increased expenses to mow the grass and clear the sidewalk. The maintenance, upkeep, repair, replacement, cleaning and shoveling concerns were enough to prompt the county board Chairman David Hillier, Third District, to send a letter of protest to the city.

This time, Hillier agreed with Tucker’s assessment that the city would be likely to sympathize with the county’s protest of assessments to come for the unwanted sidewalk, but he said, "I really don’t see a problem with sending the letter. They already know where we stand on this issue."

That prompted Miller to make a motion to approve Jacobsen’s letter and send it to the Austin City Council. However, the motion died for a lack of a second.

The county will have an opportunity to complain about the sidewalk assessments later this year, when the formal hearing is conducted.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at