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County revisits Stensland vote

By Staff | Sep 6, 2020

The Stensland property is the Bruce’s Auto Repair business on Seventh Street in Blue Earth.

At their previous meeting on Aug. 18, the Faribault County Commissioners voted to deny the request for repurchase of two forfeited tax parcels by Bruce Stensland, who owned the property at the time of forfeiture. The vote to deny the repurchase was 3-2 with commissioners Greg Young, John Roper and Tom Loveall voting in favor of the motion to deny the repurchase. Commissioners Tom Warmka and Bill Groskreutz voted against the motion.

The subject came up again as an agenda item at the County Board meeting on Sept. 1. Only four commissioners were on hand for the meeting as Loveall was unable to attend the meeting.

A motion to rescind the previous action would have to be made by one of the three commissioners who voted in favor of the action.

Stensland who was not in attendance at the Aug. 18 meeting was present at this meeting.

“I take full responsibility for all of the complaints and the taxes which weren’t paid,” Stensland said. “I do not want to talk about the negative things. I want to talk about the positive things.”

Stensland continued explaining his position.

“I donate money to many organizations, including Relay for Life and the Kiwanis,” he stated. “I buy supplies from 23 different companies and have paid taxes on this business for 25 years and I have been a mechanic 44 years.”

He also outlined what the affects were of not being able to repurchase the property.

“Number one, I lose the facility. Second, I lose my job,” Stensland explained. “Third, I lose part of my retirement and the ability to sell my own business.”

Commissioner Warmka said he had driven by the property and it had been cleaned up.

However, commissioner Roper had questions for Stensland.

“What assurance can you give us that the taxes would be paid from now on?” he asked.

Stensland replied he was in better financial shape now.

“I am also planning to rent out the space in the shed to people with campers,” Stensland added.

Stensland also asked the board to consider some of his other past actions.

“I have had at least three letters over the years in the Register where travelers who have broken down have thanked me for my efforts to get them back on the road,” Stensland claimed. “And I worked through the night on some of those vehicles.”

The question of whether Stensland would be able to pay the back taxes and penalties was also raised.

“I received a cashier’s check from Mr. Stensland which covers all of the expenses, the taxes and the penalties,” county treasurer Darren Esser offered.

Warmka offered his support for Stensland.

“I went through the 1980s on the farm and barely held on,” Warmka said. “I believe Mr. Stensland deserves another chance.”

Josh Stensland, who is Bruce’s son, also addressed the commissioners virtually.

“As a property owner in this county I respectfully request reconsideration of this motion,” he stated, “Yes, the property could have been kept up better. I also think the city could have communicated better and sent a letter to my father clarifying what their intent was.”

Josh Stensland was referring to a letter the city of Blue Earth sent to the commissioners for the last meeting, which stated the city’s concern with the property including documentation which cited various incidents of code enforcement relating to the property.

Blue Earth city administrator Mary Kennedy spoke in regards to the letter.

“I would like to clear something up,” Kennedy stated. “The letter we (the city) provided was asked for by Mr. Esser and the county staff.”

Warmka stated his concern over whether there was any communication with Stensland about what was happening.

“We were answering the request from Mr. Esser and just provided what was asked for by the county auditor,” Kennedy explained.

Commissioner Groskreutz asked if Stensland is legally able to enter the property as this time.

“A letter was sent to Mr. Stensland explaining he had to the end of September to remove his property,” Esser said.

Commissioner Young then moved to table the issue until the next meeting and the motion passed.

“I do not think this is the right decision but it is the decision,” Warmka said.