NEW ULM - The City of New Ulm is reversing its plans to sell the Marktplatz Mall sign in the City Hall parking lot and is instead seeking litigation to determine if any of the current mall owners still have a claim to the sign.
The Marktplatz sign was originally established as a 10-year lease agreement between the City and former mall owner John Petroff in 2001. The mall was eventually sold five years ago in two parts to two entities: SEK Financial, LLC., which is managed by area businessman Randy Danielson, and New Ulm Retail and Development, LLC (NURD), which is run by three businessmen from California and Ohio. The current owners never renewed the lease with the City when it expired in 2011, and the sign itself has sat with its electronic components unrepaired and unused for several years. Additionally, the City has been covering the electrical bill for the sign for years due to non-payment by the mall owners, even though the original agreement required joint payments.
The City determined that since the lease had been allowed to expire, Petroff officially declared he had no interest in the sign, and the terms of the lease were not met, the rights to the sign by current owners had been given up. Last April, the New Ulm City Council even approved City staff to look into a sale of the sign to an unnamed local business interested in purchasing and fixing it. However, the City has stopped the process because of Danielson moving to legally challenge the effort. He claims he still has rights to the sign as one of the mall owners. NURD has made similar claims to having a right to the sign, though it has not yet sent any official legal correspondence.
The City is sending a request for the Council's review on Tuesday to submit litigation in Brown County Court to seek a declaratory judgment action. The request will charge the judge with determining if any other third party interest or claim exists with the sign. The request states that the legal judgment is needed since any action the City would take would be clouded with the issue of hypothetical third party claims unless a ruling is given. The legal action is estimated to cost the City approximately $5,000.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.