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Get all the facts – Our view: Some closed sessions are necessary

We are not fans of closed sessions, even when they are conducted legally. It’s not a good look when elected officials toss around the term, ‘transparency’ and discuss business behind closed doors or talk amongst themselves to decide how an issue will be handled before the meeting begins. There’s reason to suspect it happens.
Conducting business behind closed doors includes the necessary evil of hearing a proposal to purchase real estate, property. State law allows government bodies to meet behind closed doors and consider a proposal to buy or sell property.
What the city or county does with the property once it is purchased ought to be discussed publicly.
The Glencoe City Council rejected at its Feb. 18 meeting a motion to enter closed session and consider a proposal to purchase the old Glencoe Creamery buildings and property, potentially with the idea the city would turn around and resell it for redevelopment. Monday, March 2, councilors again considered entering a closed session on the property.
Distasteful as closed sessions are, they are necessary.
And yet, councilors Allen Robeck, Cory Neid and Milan Alexander voted together to squash the closed session at the Feb. 19 meeting.
Normally, we’d be pleasantly surprised councilors decided an issue should not be discussed behind closed doors. The triumvirate of Robeck, Neid and Alexander didn’t push for a public discussion. The concern is they said the issue should not be discussed at all.
A company based in Minnetonka owns the creamery property. The building and property have a rich place in Glencoe’s history. But the buildings are deteriorating and becoming blighted. About half of the property is on a flood plain.
It does not appear the city wants to purchase the property for its own uses. There’s nothing wrong with that. Others believe the city has bigger land acquisition needs. The discussion would have been, so we were told, possibly acquiring the property so the site could be cleaned up and redeveloped.
But rather than listen to a proposal and make an informed decision, the trio decided it wasn’t interested in more information. Councilors Robeck, Neid and Alexander apparently decided they knew everything there was to know and had made a decision. The city will not acquire the creamery building and property. End of story. It will remain as is, unless the owner decides to redevelop the property.
What ‘as is’ is undetermined. There may be tanks containing who knows what is in the ground, asbestos in the building or possible soil contamination to be mitigated. If the city wants to know what is on the property and its potential impact, it should be involved in the purchase.
The city effectively doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and council members can’t stick their heads in the sand. Whether it decided to acquire the property or not, the council can’t make an informed decision without all the information.
Talks on the purchase of the property for redevelopment might have allowed the city to learn the state of the property so it could decide how to handle it moving forward. But that won’t happen.
If the property slips into tax forfeiture, a real concern at city hall, the property could easily become the city’s problem to clean up, probably at taxpayer’s expense in the years to come.
Is that what councilors want? Without a full discussion of the matter, we don’t really know.
-jm