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Mississippi National bill will see Senate vote

A bill that aims to clarify the right of Red Wing to sell Mississippi National Golf Links to a private developer is moving forward in the state Legislature.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Howe, was approved by a Senate committee Wednesday - where City Council member Peggy Rehder and other city officials spoke - and has headed to the Senate for a vote.

Some people lobbied for a requirement in the bill that the city make the sale public, but that ultimately was left out of the bill. The city can still make the sale public, but is not required to do so under the current language.

The bill was amended to include a requirement that the land only can be used for public recreational use if it is sold.

The state gave the property where Mississippi National sits to the city in the 1970s. The process of investigating the sale of the course picked up steam in the fall when the council voted to have the land appraised.

The city has cited budget reasons for selling the golf course, as well as cutting back on non-essential city services.

City officials have said they would like to sell the property to Wendell Pittenger, whose lease of the course runs through 2038. Selling would save the city an average of $200,000 a year, officials have said.

But opponents of the sale have found problems with both the sentiment and the process. A group called Save Mississippi National Golf Links has formed around the matter, lobbying for property appraisal to be made public, an open sale and other issues.

The fight has gone beyond whether or not to sell the course, opponents say.

"We are bound and determined to fight because it is not just us not wanting the golf course sold, it is fighting to get back some transparency in government," Erik Fridell wrote in an email.

The City Council did not hold an official vote to send the matter to the Legislature, which has some opponents questioning the city's tactics.

At Monday's City Council meeting Fridell is slated to give a presentation on alternatives to selling the course. A public meeting dedicated to the potential sale is scheduled for April 7.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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