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Meanwhile, owner of the Three Sisters buildings not happy

By Staff | Feb 7, 2016

The owner of three buildings on Blue Earth’s Main Street was not surprised to learn that an inspection by the city found the structures to be sound.

But, he was not happy about being what he termed “harassed” concerning his buildings which are known locally as the ‘Three Sisters.’

Robert L. Johnson is the president of the Hot Springs Citizens for Progress, a non-profit organization that owns several buildings in several states, including those located in Blue Earth.

“We have maintained these buildings and done everything the city has required of us, and I am sorry they were disappointed the buildings were not falling apart,” Johnson said in a telephone interview last Wednesday afternoon. “But they (the city) have continued to harass us they act like our buildings are dragging the town to hell, and are the sole reason the downtown isn’t thriving.” Johnson says he and his associates have tried to be good citizens but have received no cooperation from the city or from the Chamber of Commerce.

“Our plan all along has been to improve these buildings and then rent them out,” Johnson says. “But the city administrator there (former administrator Kathy Bailey) told me not to open the buildings to the public until after the street project was done, and that was three years ago and it still isn’t done.”

He went on to say he tried to work with the City Council, but was asked to leave the one meeting he attended and none of the council members returned his phone calls.

“They basically threw me out of that meeting and then they started to put fees onto my buildings for being vacant,” Johnson says. “But they have never been empty or abandoned.”

Johnson says he has asked for anyone interested in the buildings, or has ideas for businesses to go into them, to contact him, but he has heard nothing back.

And, Johnson says he has a real problem with the city and their plan for the Main Street project this summer.

“I hear the city wants to remove the awnings on the buildings and I don’t want mine removed,” Johnson says. “They are part of the building and were there when we bought them. They have no right to tear them down; they are our private property.”

Johnson says he knows the construction crews can easily put up temporary supports for the awnings and says there is no reason to remove them, other than the city just wants them gone.

“Many other cities do similar projects and the awnings don’t have to be removed,” he says. “I will not give permission to have them taken down.”

Johnson says he has not had much information about the Main Street project from the city.

“We have tried to be cooperative and do whatever they have demanded from us,” Johnson said. “When our windows were vandalized and broken we put in plywood right away and didn’t replace the glass because the cops asked us not to. When the city demanded we paint the plywood, we did.”

Johnson says he has tried to work with the city, but now has given up hoping for some cooperation back from them.

“I don’t think they are interested in helping me, just harassing me and threatening me,” he said. “Honestly, I think we might be better off to sell them, if anyone person or group would make an offer. All I heard was a suggestion from the Chamber that we donate them to some arts group, but we would pay all the expenses.”

And, Johnson added, that was not going to happen.

“I am not sure how I am the enemy, but this is certainly a hostile environment,” Johnson said. “But I still want to open these buildings up to the public and have some type of businesses in them.”