Condemnation hearing postponed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 21, 2002

A court hearing for a condemned property next to the new judicial center scheduled for Tuesday was postponed due to the removal of judges.

County District Court judges John Chesterman and James Broberg removed themselves because of potential personal interests in the case.

Though neither judge has participated in any decision on the acquisition, they took part in the design process of the new judicial center. The justices concluded that it is appropriate for them to stay out of the case to avoid raising unnecessary questions on the impartiality of the legal process, Broberg said.

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The 8,200-square-foot parcel under the dispute is located to the east of the new judicial center site. The county had tried to buy the property from owner George Dress, hoping to add parking space for the new facility. But the negotiations did not succeed, and the county began condemnation proceedings to acquire the property.

While the county appraised the property at $27,300, Dress made a contract to sell the land to Washington state resident Thomas O’Brien at $100,000. The sales price includes the payment of a $32,300 lien by the City of Albert Lea that Dress owes.

County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen contends the sale to O’Brien is intended to inflate the price in front of the court and complicate the issue.

No new judge is assigned to the case yet, and the date of hearing is undecided.