Original post April 17, 2007. Updated July 18, 2008.
Bjorn Skogquist's Anoka legacy, 302 Fremont, has been called "a foreclosure waiting to happen", a boondoggle and a debacle. It's very possible the city could lose well over $190,000 (the HRA's total annual budget); plus attorney fees and untold staff hours.
Double speak, wishful thinking and plain old spin are heavily used in these dysfunctional cities.
Skogquist ally Paul Pierce had this to say about 302 Fremont: "he wants to thank the HRA and commend them on a job well done. There will be no City funds or HRA funds lost to this project, and that the HRA will receive all of the funds back from the loan. It is important to note that the HRA's solution for 302 Fremont came out without any City money being left in the project. The things going on were all very positive and this all turned out very well."
It should be noted that Mr. Pierce was a student of mythology in his formative years.
Update: The City of Anoka wrote off $186,000 from the HRA for their part of 302. The Sheriff's sale was advertised in the 7-11-08 Anoka newspaper. It will take place August 29, 2008 at 325 E. Main. Mortgagor: Paul M. Kaiser. Mortgagee: Wells Fargo Bank. Amount claimed to be due: $312,865.53. Grand total: $498,865. The building is not yet finished and does not have a certificate of occupancy issued.
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Pierce dismissed the Union's concern about the cost of city staff time and an estimated $15,000-$18,000 in legal fees at that time (5-05) as "just the cost of doing business."
In his campaign for city council Pierce declared: "The #1 problem is spending." And yet $18,000 in legal fees on one residence is considered "just the cost of doing business" by Mr. Pierce. The Union promised a full accounting someday. We're waiting.
Why is the theme to the Twilight Zone humming in my head? And where did Paul Kaiser, the "rescue buyer", really come from? Update: A Paul Kaiser was a part-time ski instructor at the Anoka High School.
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COMMENT: It seems that Bjorn Skogquist should have a right to call 302 Fremont his historic preservation legacy. As testified by four people according to the Anoka Union.
He finagled long and hard and shamelessly for it.
He got Chris Heineman hired and placed under his assistant, the city manager, Tim Cruikshank. This facilitated the micro-managing of the lack of due diligence Chuck Drury pointed out in his editorial on 4-13-07.
In a normal city this is known as incompetence and people lose employment over it. In dysfunctional cities the employee is unanimously rewarded with a five year contract. Naturally.
People spoke against it at the time. The ACT website, www.anokacitizenstogether.com , had argued all the reasons not to place that position in administration (Tim Cruikshank). So Mr. Skogquist had to endure all that resistance. He had to endure all those attempts at good governance and due diligence. But he pushed on and overcame all reason and now we have a Sheriff's sale. He really deserves to claim 302 Fremont as his historic preservation legacy.
Update: A nice ending to this would be if the finaglers chipped in and paid their mess off. The Anoka Union article named the main ones: Paul Pierce, Aaron Barr, Bjorn Skogquist, Bonnie McDonald. $46,500 each for the city portion. Bank can fend for itself.
As it is Bjorn Skogquist can use 302 Fremont as a shining example of "pushing historic preservation" in his bid to do even bigger things at the county level as commissioner.
Anoka County taxpayer: Be afraid, be very afraid.