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Wadena County agrees to sell the former Sebeka American Legion

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At the March 18 county board meeting, commissioners learned that the City of Sebeka is proposing to buy the former Sebeka American Legion No. 456 building and land that have been a subject of debate for the last two or three years.

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The Legion is located on three parcels of land. Two of the parcels were declared tax-forfeited in 2012. The First National Bank of Sebeka held a mortgage on the remaining parcel.

In August 2012, certified letters notifying the Sebeka Legion of their status were mailed. The Sheriff's Department served an official notice of forfeiture during the week of Aug. 13-17, 2012. According to the law, after the date that the Sheriff posts the notice, the Legion will had 60 days to redeem the property. This required that they pay the county $22,000 and enter into a "confession of judgment" — a portion of what they owe in back taxes — that would allow the county to give them a 10-year payment plan so they could pay off the tax bill and keep their building.

The Legion was unable to pay the $22,000.

How did things get this bad? It was a combination of thefts by previous employees and mismanagement by post commanders.

Beginning in 2008, county property taxes, state taxes, and federal taxes went unpaid, but nobody at the Legion knew about it. The post commanders did not submit their required annual reports to the members of the Sebeka Legion, and no one pursued the matter, according to a Legion official who appeared before the board in 2012.

In 2010, a manager left suddenly, taking all the post's financial records, including the computerized records. When Deb Besett was hired as the new manager, she discovered the thefts.

Besett worked for two years to try to fix the problems. She told commissioners in July 2012, "The state and the IRS took our gambling money, seized our bank account — all of it. [Over the last two years] I've paid our gambling fees and made an arrangement with the IRS to start making a monthly payment on federal taxes. I've paid a lot of the old bills, cut the payroll, and volunteer my time. I'm here to find out if there's any relief that the board can give us."

In the end, the Legion building and two land parcels became owned by the county through tax forfeit, with one parcel and the personal property in the building still owned by the First National Bank of Sebeka. The bank could sell the land and building if the bank found a buyer and paid the back taxes — an amount estimated at $120,000.

The City of Sebeka has agreed in principle to pay this amount and become the owner of the Legion building and the three parcels of land.

Attorney Jeff Pederson appeared before the board to notify commissioners that the City of Sebeka had applied to purchase the building. The board approved the acquisition by the City of Sebeka. The City plans to use the property as a municipal liquor store and restaurant.

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