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Preservation group files complaint, requests injunction

Jackson County Resource Center, Aug. 20, 2010.

JACKSON -- The Jackson Preservation Alliance filed a complaint Tuesday against Jackson County in its efforts to save the 1938 portion of the Jackson County Resource Center, which the county is set to begin demolishing in early November.

Currently, the case is assigned to the Jackson County Court, with Judge Linda Titus presiding. Should Titus recuse herself from the case, it would be tried in Jackson County by a judge from an outside county.

"Within 20 days, we have to file an answer," said Bob O'Connor, Jackson County Attorney. "After that, I imagine it will be set for an initial hearing."

The complaint states the Preservation Alliance "seeks declaratory and injunctive relief aimed at preserving the historic Jackson senior high school building against impairment or destruction. The building is currently owned by Jackson County, and the county board has set in motion a process that will soon lead to the building's demolition. Unless enjoined, the Board's plan will cause the loss of one of the most important historic resources in Jackson County, a building whose significance makes it eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places."

The complaint, which requests a court-issued injunction to halt the destruction of the resource center, is based on the protections of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.

What to do with the county's aging resource center, most of which was built in 1938 and 1962, has been a topic of fiery debate in Jackson County for at least six years. Ideas for demolishing it and replacing it have included city participation and placing a library or senior center in it.

Multiple committees have discussed the issue for hundreds of hours and come to different conclusions, and after commissioners decided to tear down the building and build a new one, a county-wide vote prevented them from issuing building bonds. Then commissioners decided on a phased approach to building new, tearing down the 1938 part of the building to make room for a new office building, and using wind turbine tax money and set-aside funds to pay for it.

Demolition of the resource center would likely have begun in late October or early November, after the work was sent out for bids.