August 14, 2007
Is Nexus on the Attack?
Mille Lacs News Staff Writer
While it seems as if nothing at all has been happening with
the Nexus project these past long weeks, there is a rumor floating around
town that Nexus is planning to sue Mille Lacs County. Whether it's true has
yet to be confirmed. "We don't know if they really intend to sue the county,
or even if they have any grounds to sue. It could be just another big bluff
to pressure officials into granting them property tax exemption or tax
abatement," reported one of our sources. "It sounds a little like extortion
to say, 'If you don't give me what I want, I'll sue you.'"
But this story may be more about the subtle changes in the
public perception of Nexus than about any rumors of lawsuits. People in the
Onamia area are interested in what's going on, and more people are beginning
to see the sex
offender facility as a dim bulb rather than a shining star.
"There are still one or two 'naysayers' who have made some
pretty vicious comments and personal attacks on my blog," said Hannabelle,
author of the Bradbury Buzzz and contributor to the Mille Lacs News. "But I
think it could be just one or two guys who are writing comments under
different 'anonymous' names. I say some outrageous things on the blog and
some folks are offended. But at least a lot
of people are reading. For the most part, I've been getting positive
feedback. People are starting to rethink this Nexus deal, especially when
they realize how it will affect their own taxes." Hannabelle also
stated that she sees the juvenile treatment center responsible, at least in
part, for dragging
down the town.
As people are becoming more aware of Nexus' tactics, the
likelihood that they would try to bully the county seems less and less far-fetched.
However, they may be limited to Tax Court if they are once again denied
Nexus has already threatened to 1) leave the county, 2) leave
the state if their demands for property tax exemption are not met. Past
attempts at gaining exemption have failed repeatedly. The Minnesota
Department of Revenue has reviewed and rejected Nexus' applications time and
again, having determined that Nexus is not a charity and does not qualify for property tax
While certain Nexus supporters continue to cling to the
notion that Nexus is what keeps this town from dying, the tide of public
opinion gradually seems to be turning as local residents become aware of
important information previously unavailable to them.
For one thing, the amount of violence at the sex offender
institution has not only been downplayed to the public, it seems to have
been intentionally concealed. Altercations between inmates and staff have
resulted in injuries to employees. Runaways have been unreported. Nexus'
public relations policy seems to be "what you don't know won't hurt you."
But those who live near the facility have a right to know the
truth about safety issues. And as long as problems are covered up, people
are operating under false assumptions.
Yet, it's the
property tax exemption issue which seems to trouble most people. One local
businessman complained that as the owner of a small business, he had to pay
his property taxes while Nexus, a multi-million dollar corporation with an
annual budget of 38 million dollars has city officials rallying behind them
as they attempt to dodge their tax obligation. "It isn't fair," he said.
Apparently, city officials did not show such strong support for Heggie's
Pizza, which is relocating to Milaca.
the new Nexus facility was slated to begin in August. That looks unlikely
now, with everything put "on hold" and still so much preparation ahead. With
time running out and with the pressure on Nexus to go somewhere, it wouldn't be surprising
to find Nexus both offensive and defensive at this point.
"The county needs
to stand it's ground," another Onamia man advised. "Think of the precedence it
would set by handing out such a huge tax break to one business just because
they threatened to leave or sue the county."