Commissioners to again discuss Bally Blacksmith Shop

With the deadline for a grant application to the Minnesota Historical Society due on March 15, Carrie McHugh, Gene Erickson, and Hal Greenwood of the Cook County Historical Society again met with the county board on March 5 to discuss a partnership that would allow the historical society to purchase the Bally Blacksmith Shop in Grand Marais, probably the oldest commercial building in Grand Marais.
On February 26, the historical society had requested the partnership after hearing of Legacy funds left over in the Minnesota Historical Society’s biennial budget.  The historical society’s annual budget was not sufficient to allow it to apply for the grant alone.
At that meeting, the county board discussed concerns over potential liability if any environmental contaminants were found on the property and authorized Planning & Zoning Director Tim Nelson to find a consultant to evaluate the property with a “Phase I” study, an initial evaluation conducted through visual observation, record searches, and interviews.
Environmental Troubleshooters Inc. conducted the study, and Director Nelson accompanied them when they looked at the property.  He told the county board on March 5 that he was more comfortable with the site after visiting it.
Commissioner Sue Hakes said she has received some complaints about the building potentially being taken off the tax rolls.  She asked the historical society if they could move the building off the property so that the sellers could sell it as commercial space.  Museum Director Carrie McHugh said the Minnesota Historical Society would not support moving the building off its historic location.
More people would probably be upset about moving it than about taking  it off the tax rolls, Commissioner Jan Hall said.
“I really think it would contribute to the community,” said McHugh.
County Attorney Tim Scannell said the possibility of liability issues regarding contaminants if the property is not altered is slim, but it’s good to do due diligence to protect the county’s interest.  He agreed to work with Tim Nelson and the seller’s attorney, Bailers  Heeren, on coming up with legal documents that would allow the  partnership while limiting the county’s liability.
The board will discuss the issue again at its March 12 meeting.