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MNGL case lands in court

Mississippi National Golf Links operator Wendell Pittenger's apparent plans to close the course after this month have resulted in legal action by the city of Red Wing.

A complaint filed Monday by the city accuses Pittenger of a breach of contract and asked for a number of decisions on issues including financial restitution.

The city also asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent Pittenger and his company from removing or selling equipment at the property or canceling scheduled events and to require the company to perform obligations, specifically winterizing the course.

Judge Thomas Bibus issued an order Friday denying the temporary restraining order.

The city owns the 36-hole course and leases it to Pittenger. In a September newsletter to Mississippi National Golf Links members, he wrote that the course would close after Oct. 31.

The complaint from the city states the emailed newsletter "unambiguously indicated" Pittenger planned to close the course permanently and therefore violate the terms of the lease, which was slated to run through 2038.

The city sent a notice of default to Pittenger on Sept. 25. He and his corporation were given 30 days -- ending Oct. 25 -- to "cure all defaults," according to the complaint.

A bond payment on the course also comes due Nov. 1. The complaint states the bond will likely go into default, which could hurt the city's bond rating.

In the complaint, the city says Pittenger and his corporation "have already begun removing golf course maintenance equipment from the leased premises" and sending to other courses he runs. It sought court action to stop this, in part to ensure equipment is available to prepare the course for winter.

The defendant said winterization plans are in place, Bibus wrote, and "even if it does not occur by lessee, the lessor (city) has the right to enter and perform and then seek damages."

Last month the City Council approved the use of up to $10,000 from the contingency fund should the city have to take on winterizing and other maintenance at the course.

The city also sought court action that would allow for planned events at the banquet facility, such as weddings and parties, to go on as scheduled.

"Although the court is sensitive to the personal costs in canceling important events that were scheduled well in advance at the banquet facility, such do not rise to the level of irreparable harm," Bibus wrote.

The City Council plans to discuss the case in a closed session at its meeting Monday.

Separately, the city has scheduled a public forum for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 20 in the Red Wing Public Library Foot Room to discuss the future of the course.

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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