Bringing it back home … eventually

Published 10:55 am Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Board renews lease at mall, but targets move to county-owned property

Twist their arms, why don’t you.

Though the Mower County Board of Commissioners reluctantly agreed to a one-year lease extension with Oak Park Mall Tuesday, the board made it clear they hope to see the Public Health and Human Services offices back on county property.

Some commissioners also wondered when the county would receive some of the back taxes the mall owes.

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Mall owners M H Graff & Associates, Inc. owes about $142,900 in delinquent taxes for its portion of the property, which doesn’t include the Shopko or Mower County Health and Human Services wings, according to Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh.

“The problem here is the portion … of the real estate tax is not being paid,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said.

Board members questioned whether they could take some of the lease out of the delinquent taxes, but County Attorney Kristin Nelson said since DCA Minn., Inc. owns the mall property as opposed to the mall itself, the county couldn’t charge DCA Minn. for the back taxes M H Graff & Associates owes.

“The bottom line is we cannot put pressure on that company,” Commissioner Ray Tucker said.

The Public Health and Human Services offices will stay at the mall through Oct. 30, 2012, unless the mall decides to extend its lease. This will be the eighth year the county has leased space from Oak Park Mall. It will cost the county about $4,616 a month in rent.

Calls to Oak Park Mall owner M H Graff & Associates, Inc., were not returned.

Back to the county

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson hopes to meet with the county finance committee soon to hammer out the details of next year’s budget, though the government shutdown is still in effect.

Oscarson said the finance committee could make some basic fiscal decisions about each department within the next couple weeks in order to set a framework for next year’s budget. The county can’t set a finite budget until the state’s budget, including how much the county would get in County Program Aid, is settled.

County officials will also meet soon to discuss the 2008 projections for remodeling the County Government Center done by Knutson Construction, which built the Mower County Jail and Justice Center.

“We saw the bottom fall out of the construction business (since then),” Oscarson said.

That’s why county officials will meet with Knutson to ask for another set of projections at no cost to the county. Once that’s done, county officials can meet with city officials, who co-own the Law Enforcement Center, to see what can be done to get all or part of the building up to code.

The board at some point will discuss future options for Public Health and Human Services office locations. The offices can stay at Oak Park Mall, move into vacant space in the Mower County Government Center, or the county could build a new building on the “Robbins block.”