by Joe Perske
Stearns County Commissioner
While little has been said most recently about the sale of the Sartell Golf Course by the city to Brandon Testa, the more we look at the process, the more we see how truly wrong it was.
While $426,000 has been quoted as the final sale price of the 81 acres of property, reality shows the city is giving away the intended parkland. At the closing of the property sale, Boulder Ridge, the present operators, will need to be paid $40,000, and a liability of $407,000 remains in commitment to the Scheels Arena through 2032. It is being sold at a loss! Can that be justified? It can’t!
Unfortunately, withholding information from the public has been key for the city council and the buyer to make the deal happen. The city may claim that informative council meetings and workshops were held prior to the sale, but I challenge you to find information that supports transparency.
Looking at the meeting agendas and the minutes from those meetings, little or nothing is referenced to this city’s dubious decision. So, what went on behind closed doors and the council communications with the buyer during the past year? We don’t know. We do know Testa had an advantage of months of communications with the city over all other potential buyers.
The city council paid about $1.6 million for the property while I was a city council member in 2008. We were using the regional half-cent sales tax revenue and intended to preserve the property for future green space and parkland. Knowing the long-range plan for the property and the ridiculous sale price, it’s no wonder why all the previous mayors in the past 30 years and more than a dozen previous council members opposed the sale. Details of the sale became public only days before a council vote. While former city officials and residents had clamored to have input, they were denied. Present council members Tim Elness, Alex Lewandowski, Jill Smith and the city administrator would not let them speak.
Was the process unethical or illegal? Maybe both!