Council hears new appeal to resolve Steger land purchase
Business owner claims attempt to expand has simmered for 17 years
Keith Vandervort

ELY – In an effort to resolve her 17-year attempt to purchase a piece of land in the Ely Business Park, business owner Patricia Steger appeared before the City Council Tuesday night and offered a new purchase price.

“Our purpose in attending this meeting is to resolve this,” she said. “We want to resolve this peacefully.”

She presented a six-page timeline dating from April 15, 1997, to give “a sense of history” in explaining her efforts to purchase the land adjacent to the factory for parking and expansion for Steger Mukluks.

“There’s been a lot of money, time and energy that has already been expended,” she said, “I know that tens of thousands of dollars have been paid in attorneys” fees, at least on my part. Throughout these years I have mistakenly believed that the city of Ely and Steger Tract C file was active.”

She said with the passing of Atty. Larry Klun in November 2006, “it appears activity on this file had ceased completely.” According to Steger, by late 2006 the city had not supplied her with an abstract of title for review, a mining inspection report, and had not removed the concrete debris, according to the contract.

She admitted that in 2006 the purchase of the property was “not on the top of my list” as she was going through a divorce and litigation with a company over an equipment purchase. Following that she said she was battling with the federal government over naming rights and foreign sales of her footwear products.

“We’re trying to get moving forward on the purchase of Tract C,” she said. “We do need to expand. We’re pretty cramped. We long-ago have outgrown our space.”

She said over the years she was assured by City Attorney Kelly Klun that the city would sell her the land.

On July 9, 2013, Steger said she was contacted by Klun that “they had no file” on the Steger purchase of Tract C. “I was shocked, as the City Attorney had told me not to worry. Suddenly I was worried,” she said. “We mistakenly assumed that everything would be settled finally after the July 9 conversation.”

She said that 75 days later she was notified that the council voted to cancel the contract because it was in default and that the closing date was back in 1997. “We were never given the courtesy to come before the council to try and explain or come to a resolution,” she said. “In view of this history, with all the material in our file, we had no recourse after these events concerning the cancellation, but to turn this matter over to our attorney.”

“We don’t want to go to war with you all,” she said. “I don’t think you want to go to war with us. But that is what ended up happening after so many years of the city not fulfilling its contract.”

She said the purchase agreement obligation for the land purchase is $12,000. “You authorized an offer of $20,000,” she said. According to her timeline, she requested to get that offer in writing in December 2013.

“Basically, to get this resolved, we decided that we would meet you halfway and our counter-offer to you is that we will offer $16,000 to just get this done,” she said. “You remove the concrete debris. We will waive the mining inspection report. You provide title and insurance. We will execute the right-of-way resolution and if you accept this, we would like it done in 30 days.”

Acting Mayor Paul Kess thanked Steger for her time and effort “in providing clarification on her perspective” on the matter. He indicated that there is legal action pending “which could restrict the city from moving forward at this time.”

Steger said, “We can resolve this by your making a decision and we can cancel everything. I have that power and you have that power.”

Klun said the city will take the offer under advisement.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• Supported the formation of a task force to open proposals and interview prospective construction firms for the library and city hall projects, and agreed to have a special meeting on April 29 vote on a selection;

• OK’d the amendment of the current waste disposal contract to phase out the current sticker program and allow a “pay as you throw” service;

• Approved the Ely Utility Commission’s policy pertaining to declaring a water main emergency;

• Authorized the 2014 spring clean-up for June 6-7 at Whiteside Park.

• Supported the donation of $500 to Northwoods Care Partners with funds taken from the mayor/council travel budget;

• Approved the $1,500 computer purchase for a Police Department squad car;

• Agreed to pay $500 annual membership to belong to the Greater Minnesota Partnership;

• Supported the budget committee’s recommendation for Gregg Cramer’s application for a $10,000 residential rehabilitation loan for improvements at 114 W. Conan Street;

• Tabled discussion of Standard Operating Guidelines for the Police Department; and

• Approved the addition of Judy Niemela to serve on the Telecommunications Advisory Board.

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