Clock winding down for Knights Inn owners

Published 3:37 pm Saturday, July 21, 2012

More than $200,000 still owed in property taxes

The owners of the Knights Inn in Albert Lea have less than a month to pay more than $220,000 in back property taxes before their hotel may be auctioned at a tax forfeiture sale.

The sale has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 9 in the Freeborn Room of the Freeborn County Courthouse. The minimum bids for each of the two parcels that make up the property are $1 each.

If the taxes are paid in full prior to this date, the property at 2301 E. Main St. will be removed from the sale.

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Freeborn County Assessor Ryan Rasmusson said hotel owners Mike Nevins of Albert Lea and Amar Singh of Eau Claire, Wis., owe $220,980, which includes $63,192 in interests and penalties.

Rasmusson said this includes the following unpaid property taxes dating back to 2007:

• $72,651 from 2007

• $70,378 from 2008

• $55,684 from 2009

• $4,858 from 2010

• $17,406 from 2011

The taxes for 2012 are not yet delinquent.

Rasmusson said the property had been slated for the auction last year, but Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer Dennis Distad struck a payment agreement with the owners to help catch them up. The owners made the first two payments in June and July of 2011, but missed the remaining payments.

The assessor said the last payment the county received from the owners was in July of 2011.

Nevins and Singh have owned the hotel, which is where motorists enter Albert Lea from Interstate 35 exits 11 and 12, since October 2009 when they purchased it for $1.9 million. At that time there was almost $184,000 in back property taxes.

In an interview in March, Nevins said he fully intended to pay the back property taxes before the hotel went to auction.

“I have several options to resolve this that I am pursuing,” he said. “In the end, the taxes will be paid.”

Nevins did not return phone calls to the Tribune this week for this story.

Dan Dorman, executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, said the Albert Lea Port Authority is looking into acquiring the property if the taxes are not paid.

“We’re going to file a notice to remove it from the auction if they don’t pay their taxes,” Dorman said.

He said it made sense to the Port Authority board and other city officials to look into the property for potential economic development, especially considering its location and proximity to the interstate.

“Either they needed to do it, or we needed to do it,” Dorman said. “But at the end of the day it was in the public’s best interest for one of us to do it.”

Once the notice is filed, the Port Authority would have six months to conduct environmental work at the site and make sure it is something it would like to do.

He said if the entity does not file the notice, there is the fear that someone who is undercapitalized would come into the auction and purchase the property. Then it would likely end up in the same position all over again.

Dorman, however, said it would not surprise him if Nevins and Singh paid the taxes.