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Preservation chair rips county for jail sale efforts

The chair of the Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission says St. Louis County's efforts to sell the old county jail are actually making it tougher for it to be sold.

The chair of the Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission says St. Louis County's efforts to sell the old county jail are actually making it tougher for it to be sold.

Penelope Clark sent a letter last week to the County Board arguing that the county's request for proposals sent out last month "are negative and discouraging of sale and adaptive reuse of the property."

Clark said one way the county was discouraging the sale was to charge $1,000 to any prospective buyer to tour the building, of which $750 will be refunded if a serious purchase proposal is submitted.

"In our opinion, the press release and RFP language effectively conveys the very political nature of this issue and the county's desire for demolition," Clark wrote.

The county and the County Board wanted to demolish the jail this year, but were prevented by the City Council, who said that not enough was done to sell it and wanted to see a good faith effort put into its sale.

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City Councilor and county Deputy Administrator Gary Eckenberg said he believed a good faith effort has taken place.

"We've received about half a dozen inquiries," since putting out the RFP, Eckenberg said.

Prior to the RFP, the county showed the building to about 60 parties but received no legitimate offers for the building.

Eckenberg said county administrator Kevin Gray is attempting to put tours together for prospective buyers to reduce costs, but said there are major health concerns for touring the building.

"We have thought about fitting tour members with respirators," he said. "We won't do that -- but there are major concerns."

Offers to purchase the building through the RFP process are due on Aug. 14. If a suitable bid isn't given, the county will turn to a broker, Eckenberg said.

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