County to accept bids on building

By Seth Rowe

Mower County's health, human and veteran's services building is officially for sale.

The Mower County Board voted 3-2 Tuesday to accept bids for the approximately 20,000 square-foot building adjacent to the Spam Museum.

Potential buyers have until 1:10 p.m. Aug. 5 to submit sealed bids to county coordinator Craig Oscarson.


Board members said during a previous meeting that Hormel Foods Corp. officials have expressed interest in the property.

Board member David Hillier opposed the motion to advertise, saying the county didn't have any intention of selling the property six months ago and does not have a place to house the 77 employees working in the building. He said his research indicates the county would have to pay more than $200,000 a year to rent a similar building until a new one could be built. He argued that the sale would require a tax increase at a time when the county is struggling with a budget shortfall.

He said a commissioner had initially inquired about selling the property to the Port Authority, which would then transfer it to "the company." Hillier asked County Attorney Patrick Flanagan to explain why the county was going through a public bid process instead.

Flanagan said Oscarson had looked into the possibility, but the Port Authority would have had to have a public bid anyway, and there would have to be a public use involved in order to sell the property to the Port Authority.

After Hillier's questions, board member Ray Tucker amended his motion so that bids must include when the buyer would take possession of the building. Both Hillier and board member Richard Cummings still voted against the motion.

"I'm not trying to make a bad decision, but development is a positive part of the community," said board member Dick Lang. "Where can we go for growth in Austin and Minnesota? I see a dream for Mower County, and if we have to sell a little property, we shouldn't be in the business of owning property."

Tucker said the county needs to know all the details before the board makes a decision about selling the property.

"We've raised questions, but we need a number to see if it's feasible," he said. "I want to see what they're willing to pay. If it's feasible, I'm interested in doing it."


The earliest the board would make a decision on whether to sell the property would be Aug. 12.

Hormel spokesperson Julie Craven said the company's plans are still up in the air, but she called Tuesday's decision an interesting development.

"I can't really comment on our plans at all but probably will be able to within the next few weeks," Craven said.

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