Smokehouse to remain

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 8, 2002

One of Austin's oldest-standing structures received a stay of execution Monday night.

A smoke house built in 1826 will not be destroyed. The owner was given another 60 days to consult contractors for cost estimates to save the building.

In the meantime, other possible "rescuers," including the Mower County Historical Society, will be sounded out about possibly taking the building under its wings.

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City planing director Craig Hoium was going to ask the Austin City Council Monday to adhere to the city directive allowing for the demolition of hazardous structures located at 121 West Oakland Ave. and owned by Robert Knauer, the dean of Austin's independent, family-owned grocery operators.

The buildings include a smokehouse and a former stable which are located back-to-back behind the Knauer's market, a business that is more than 140 years old.

However, Jeanne Poppe, 2nd Ward council member, started the stay of execution by inquiring if the buildings held any historical significance.

That came after Hoium assured the council members he attempted to satisfy the city's ordinance with repeated contacts with Knauer to advise him the buildings were in danger of not meeting code requirements unless restored. If that happened, Hoium warned they would have to be demolished.

Knauer said the smokehouse was closed 52 years ago and since that time has only been used by a family member to smoke hams for personal consumption.

"It's a treasure of the downtown," Knauer said. "People take pictures of it all the time."

Dick Lang, 3rd Ward council member, joined Poppe in coming to the rescue of Knauer. He wanted action delayed two months to give Knauer more time to seek a solution to his dilemma.

So did 1st Ward council member Wayne P. Goodnature. "Once these things are gone, they're gone forever," Goodnature said.

The motion to grant the delay was unanimously approved by the council members.

CVB update heard

Also Monday night, the council members heard from Holly LaVallie, director of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

LaVallie updated the city officials on the CVB's work to promote tourism in the city.

She told of 150 group tours to Austin this year and estimated the impact on local restaurants at $25,000 in additional business.

Another $10,000 was estimated as the amount spent at local tourist attractions, such as the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center and the Paramount Theatre, LaVallie said.

In other action Monday night, the Austin City Council:

n Referred claims from Thomas Frankson, Harriet Iverson, Randal Laskewitz and Tyler Hoban to the city attorney for review and action.

n Delayed action on accepting one of seven bids received to cap 14 wells and demolish buildings on 16 sites along Mower County Road No. 3, south of the Austin Municipal Airport for the airport runway extension project.

n Approved rental fee hikes at Riverside Arena from $850 to $1,000, plus a refundable deposit of $500 to help cover set up and clean up costs. The park and recreation sub-committee of the council recommended the fee increases.

n Set hearing date of Nov. 4 for special assessments for five sidewalk improvement projects

and one sanitary sewer and water services project and one snow removal project.

n Restored leaf collection site at Third Avenue and 21st Street SW for two weekends, Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27 at the recommendation of the public works committee. The city has five other leaf collection sites open to residents this fall.

n Approved a lease agreement with Minnesota Department of Public Safety for a motorcycle skills testing site at Todd Park.

n Approved a 5.6 percent variance from the required 20 percent green space requirement and set a public hearing on the request for the board of adjustment.

n Approved four separate resolutions on issuance of general obligation improvement bonds totaling nearly $5 million. A total of $1.22 million in GOI bonds is for improvement projects. The rest are, according to finance director Tom Dankert, a refinancing of the city's bonds, which Dankert said will result in a substantial savings of interest monies by the city.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at