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UPDATE: County to again seek bids for public health building

Stevens County began plans this spring to sell its public health building on Pacific Avenue in Morris after the staff moved to its new location on Highway 28.

A legal technicality will further delay Stevens County's efforts to sell its now-vacant public health building on Pacific Avenue.

The county's Board of Commissioners discussed the issue at its meeting Tuesday and chose to once again advertise for bids for the building.

The county would be limited somewhat in its attempt to sell property on the open market by a Minnesota statute that places stipulations on the process if the county has already rejected a bid or bids for the property. Last month, the county rejected the lone bid it received for the property.

The county set a July 19 deadline for new bids, and bidders will be invited to attend the opening and would be allowed to increase their bids following the opening.

At that time, the county can choose to sell the property for the bid price and the statute's limits would not apply unless the bids were again rejected.

As part of its facilities plan when courthouse renovation planning began, the county this spring moved its branch of Stevens Traverse Grant Public Health to a building on Highway 28 in Morris that formerly housed the county Human Services department. Human Services moved to the courthouse when renovations were completed in late 2010.

The county, which set a $200,000 price for the public health in its courthouse building budget, also paid for an appraisal which came in at $250,000.

But after initially advertising the building, Todd Hottovy submitted the lone bid of $125,000, which was rejected by the board.

The county continued to negotiate with Hottovy and also solicited proposals from area real estate brokers to market the property.

During that time, the county was considering another bid from Hottovy of $160,000, but when researching the purchase agreement, language in the Minnesota statute put a halt to any potential deal.

The law states that if government property is not sold after considering bids, the county can hire a broker to sell the property but it can't be sold for less than 90 percent of the appraised market value "as determined by the county."

That stipulation led the council to advertise a second time for bids. Despite having the outside appraisal, the statute apparently gives the county the option to appraise the property itself. The county also could then opt to work through a broker, but would have to negotiate and pay a fee.

The board stated it was not averse to working through a broker and negotiating a fee if necessary, but that advertising for bids a second time appeared to be the cleanest way to start over and avoid a potential legal problem.

For more on Tuesday's county board meeting, see the Sun Tribune Web site on Friday afternoon, and the print version on Saturday.