The Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors has instructed Winneshiek County Attorney Andy Van Der Maaten to file a lawsuit against the Oneota Historic Future Alliance (OHFA).
At its meeting Monday, the Board unanimously voted to file the action in an effort to obtain a judgment against OHFA for the $9,600 OHFA owes the county.
Van Der Maaten sent OHFA a letter in January of 2012 asking whether a payment plan could be set up to reimburse the county, but he said he was told OHFA has no assets.
In 2008, Sean Devine Meyer paid the county $1 to remove the county caretaker’s house in Freeport and be allowed to keep all of the materials. The house had been vacant for years, since renters found it too costly to heat.
But OHFA asked the supervisors for time to save the building. In September 2008, the supervisors approved an agreement with OHFA, giving the organization two years to have the structure placed on the National Register of Historic Places and to identify a potential tenant, or take the building down by Nov. 30, 2010.
When OHFA was unable to meet the deadline, it was given an extension. The supervisors set a final deadline of Dec. 31, 2011 to comply with the agreement. When OHFA did not, the supervisors had the building, located near Wellington Place, removed at the county’s expense in 2012.
In January of 2013, the supervisors instructed Van Der Maaten to contact OHFA for repayment of its outstanding obligation to the county.
“Winneshiek County has incurred $10,400 in expenses associated with removing that house. Pursuant to the agreements made by OHFA with the county, that expense was to be reimbursed. OHFA was given the opportunity to pay $5,000 on or before Dec. 31, 2012 in full satisfaction of their obligations, but to date, have failed to make any payment,” Van Der Maaten stated in a letter to OHFA member James Burns of Decorah.
The $10,400 cost was reduced to $9,600 after the county was reimbursed for the sale of materials salvaged from the caretaker’s house.
In his January 2013 response to Van Der Maaten, Burns said he is aware of the financial situation regarding the caretaker house.
“In the original agreement, the group had set aside $5,000 to be applied to the removal of the house, which was applied largely to an asbestos abatement bill,” Burns wrote.
“When it came time to remove the house, OHFA lacked the financial resources to be able to fund the entire removal.”
Van Der Maaten contacted an OHFA representative again in March regarding the $9,600 the organization still owes the county.
“As this continues to be an ongoing obligation of your organization, could you please contact the Board concerninng OHFA’s intentions for resolving the indebtedness, including any type of resonable payment plan that you would be prepared to follow?” Van Der Maaten wrote.
OHFA did not respond to the County Attorney’s request.