City may buy new police HQ

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 20, 2002

The City of Albert Lea said it intends to participate financially in the county’s new judicial center project during a joint meeting with county officials Wednesday.

City Manager Paul Sparks said the city started assessing the cost of buying a 6,000 square-foot space for the police department in the new facility.

Currently, the city pays $18,000 in annual rent for a 1,500 square-foot police department space in the law enforcement center.

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The city would assess whether buying or renting would be more economical. Sparks expects the financial commitment to the project would provide the city more leverage to influence the design of the judicial center, and asked Police Chief Tom Menning to be involved in the process.

The city also informed the county that it rejected a proposal from the landowner of potential parking sites for the new judicial center to contribute the lots in exchange for waiving tax arrears.

According to the city, the landowner, George Dress has a $227,000 accumulated city tax balance on his properties across the city. Dress asked the city to write off the tax obligation, and in exchange he would donate the two parcels of land.

&uot;We said no. The price is too hefty for the properties,&uot; Sparks said.

Dress also owns land adjacent to the east of the Western Grocer Building. The county wants to acquire the land to build a parking lot and has been negotiating through attorney Chester Swenson. But the prices offered by each side are still far apart, according to County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen.

The county has the option of filing an eminent domain proceeding to the court to condemn the property if a deal can’t be reached.

The county is concerned the new judicial center would suffer from a serious parking shortage. The current parking spaces to the west of the Western Grocer Building and street parking spots will be occupied by the new building.