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Hubbard County considers a lease renewal with the Historical Society

Members of the Hubbard County Historical Society attended Tuesday's county board meeting to discuss concerns about the possibility of the county not renewing the current lease agreement. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

A crowd gathered at the Hubbard County Board meeting on Tuesday morning with concern about whether or not the lease between Hubbard County and the Hubbard County Historical Society would be renewed.

"A great concern to many people in Hubbard County is the continued use of the historic courthouse for the history museum and the Nemeth Art Center," said Russ Brown, president of the Hubbard County Historical Society.

Brown questioned the commissioners as to whether the possibility of the lease not being renewed was simply an insurance matter.

"My understanding of where we're at is that there has been a draft lease submitted to the board that was okayed by MCIT, which is the county's insurance," Jonathan Frieden, county attorney, said. "There is some concern about the county outside of their insurance having liability based on the condition of the building with the lease."

Frieden said that whether the county will go forward with the lease is a matter to be put to the board.

Brown informed the commissioners that the Historical Society carries liability insurance on the premises inside the building through North Star Mutual Insurance Company for $1 million per occurrence with a $2 million aggregate which lists Hubbard County as a protected entity.

"In the 40 years that we've occupied this building, there has never been a claim," Brown said.

Michael Dagen, director of the Nemeth Art Center addressed the commissioners about their concerns with the condition of the building.

"I wanted to take the opportunity with all of us in the room to make sure that we're all on the same page," Dagen said, adding that the building is listed on the National Historic Register, "which makes it eligible for complete funding to have all those deficiencies in that report paid for. It's kind of too-good-to-be-true so I can understand why not everybody would believe it."

He added that it would take a fraction of the cost quoted in the report to remedy those deficiencies.

"What I learned in that report is this building is a 117 years old and it's in incredibly good shape," Dagen said. "We'll get the roof repaired and get these other electrical issues taken care of and it's going to be around a long time and continue to serve the community."

"I do believe the confusion was that we didn't realize this policy existed," Commissioner Charlene Christenson said, questioning whether the county had received a copy of the policy.

"We may have a certificate of liability but I have not received a policy," said Kay Rave, county auditor/treasurer, referring to the confusion.

Brown said he would make sure the county receives a copy of the insurance policy.

"It kind of blindsided all of us when Don (Dearstyne) recommended we shouldn't be leasing it," Commissioner Cal Johannsen said. "But what's the advantage to leaving the building sitting there empty?"

In years prior, the lease was signed for a duration of 20 years. A five-year lease was proposed to be more acceptable to allow for a more timely review of changing circumstances.

Consideration of the proposed lease was scheduled for the May 2 board meeting.