The media has NOT left the building

Sitting in the St. Louis County Board meeting Tuesday in Hibbing, I couldn’t believe my luck.

After a WDIO-TV reporter and cameraman left, Commissioner Keith Nelson, who was chairing the finance and budget committee meeting, perked up.

Discussion about selling the old jail in Duluth was underway, and Nelson said he had been waiting for the press to leave to speak his mind. Filling in for another reporter, I had gone unnoticed.

Nelson became candid, his tone confidential.

Folks, we’re facing millions in cuts and we’re still dealing with this jail, said Nelson who lives in Virginia.

"The county’s plans to raze the old jail — long considered by county officials as a white elephant — had been successfully blocked by preservationists  and the city of Duluth because the jail is part of a historic district designated a local landmark.

"Small groups tend to make a great deal of noise," Nelson said, apparently referring to preservationists. "It becomes news."

The city, which denied the county a demolition permit, told the county to first try harder to find a buyer.

"I’m not criticizing your city," Nelson said of Duluth, but went on to say the city had cost the county money.

"Since our first discussions of demolition, we have incurred in excess of $120,000, no $200,000 as a result of rules imposed on us," Nelson said.

The county can’t continue to spend money on the old jail, he said.

"We are 51 days from agreement," he said, encouraging the board to approve the sale. "We’re at a juncture. We have to look at this positively."

Of the sale agreement, he said bluntly:  "It’s not a great deal."

The sale, which goes to a likely board vote next week, would cost the county nearly as much as the $54,000 selling price, but demolition was estimated to now cost $300,000.

When he finished talking, I thought: "That’s not so bad." Surely, the media could have heard that.

 

4 thoughts on “The media has NOT left the building

  1. Awesome, if only our politicians could just be upfront and honest like this all the time. Why waste their time or ours giving a non response. They are so scared of offending people, just tell it like it is and you will gain our respect.

  2. Over the last several years the County Board has been extremely embarrassing – with a few exceptions. We really need some good, fresh candidates – who can actually win, which excludes some that are already talking about running again – to replace these guys. Nelson, Fink, Raukar, and Forsman are all up for re-election this year. We should replace them all and start with a clean slate. If you live in these districts, please consider running.

  3. The County Commissioners have no one to blame for this fiasco but themselves: if they took proper care of the building they could have got a much better price. Last summer the County had all the utility hook-ups dismantled because they were so certain they were going ahead with demolition. And now they have to spend $50K to hook them back up for the new owners, essentially wiping out any financial gain from the building’s sale. Can’t blame the City’s Preservation Commission: they simply did their job by pointing out that demoing that building would break the law. If anything, the preservation types saved the County (taxpayers, hello!) from a potential multi-million dollar lawsuit. These “media absent” comments just prove the County tried its best to NOT sell the jail so they could knock it down.

  4. I am glad the St. Louis County Commissioners voted to sell the old jail. As a taxpayer in St. Louis County, I am sick and tired of paying for an old jail that should have been demolished long time ago (except the idiots on the Duluth City Council refused to allow St. Louis County to demolish the old jail). St. Louis County gets so much revenue from property taxes, state aid, etc. State aid has been cut from St. Louis County and we not only had to pay for an upkeep of the old jail, but also the Chris Jensen nursing home. Duluth is NOT the only city in St. Louis County, but it seems that most of the county tax money gets spent on pork barrel projects that only benefit Duluth.

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