While there might not have been a "stereotypical" mortgage burning event, two local government bodies are celebrating the fact that they paid off the building they share.  Now the work begins as to what the future holds.

The Government Center on Hammond Avenue in Superior - which serves as a government center for both the City of Superior and Douglas County - is debt free after both municipalities made their final payments on the bond they've shared since 2000.  According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], Douglas County made their last payment in February and the City of Superior has their final payment built in to the current 2022 operating budget.

Debt service for the $44.7 million building has been shared since ground was first broken in 2000.  Early on in its lifespan, what became the Government Center received a lot of press for cost estimates and planned usage.  The facility was initially called the Metro Building and replaced a modern but aging building that still exists across Hammond Avenue.  When construction was finished in 2003, multiple tenants moved in:  City offices, County offices, and the law enforcement arms of each.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

While that bond debt has been shared over the last twenty-plus years, the legal relationship looks a little different and that's what's causing the current discussion about the future:

"There is no formal agreement in place between the municipalities over how the space will be shared moving forward. The county owns the building; the city is a tenant."

That semi-formal agreement that was in place while the debt service was being completed is over now that the original period is over.  Douglas County Board Chair Mark Liebart explains:

"The building is paid off and the agreement that we have with the city expired with its being paid off, and the relationship for occupancy of that building by the city will be negotiated and talked about and firmed up over the next year."

Liebart and Superior Mayor Jim Paine both concur that "a written agreement is needed" - especially when it comes to items like maintenance and the like.  Mayor Paine offered "We built it together, so we'll have to care for it together".

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