The Oneota Historic Future Alliance (OHFA) still owes Winneshiek County $9,600 for the removal of the county’s caretaker house, and Winneshiek County Attorney Andy Van Der Maaten has been instructed to remind the organization of its debt.
Deborah Bishop, a member of OHFA and the Caretaker’s House Coalition, recently emailed Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines asking what OHFA owed the county. Steines asked the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors Monday how he should respond.
“Didn’t you draft a letter (to OHFA) about a year ago?” Board of Supervisors Chairman John Logsdon asked Van Der Maaten. “We can’t let it hang out there forever and a day. Have any steps been taken to collect it?”
“They signed a contract,” Supervisor Dennis Karlsbroten said.
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.
“The question is how much time do you want to spend pursuing something that’s not collectible,” Van Der Maaten said. “The reality is, unless there are assets it’s a waste of my time and your time and money.”

In September 2008, the supervisors approved an agreement with OHFA, giving the organization two years to have the county caretaker’s house in Freeport 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 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 Marten, 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, Oneota Historic Future Alliance lacked the financial resources to be able to fund the entire removal.
“Circumstances have not changed significantly for OHFA. The only business activities that we have engaged in the last year have been the casual sale of some of the East Side (former elementary school) materials that have been stored. The expenses of that adventure have exceeded any earnings and leaves us in much the same situation that we were in at the time of the removal of the caretaker house, and that is we are unable to pay anything additional towards its removal,” Burns concluded.