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District stands behind dog track appraisal

Hudson School District Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten said she has confidence in the appraisal of the former St. Croix Meadows dog track made by Valuation Specialists of Eau Claire and the Twin Cities.

The district contracted the services of the firm earlier this year to determine the value of the property and the approximately 90,000 square feet of the main building that could be refitted as a secondary school. The appraisal came in at $16.5 million, which includes the land and reusable existing infrastructure, such as electrical, water and sewer, interior and exterior structure elements. The appraisal was presented to the district by owner Jeff White at the February school board meeting.

It has come to light from information provided to the Star-Observer by a critic of the district that one of White's employees -- appraiser Paul Joseph Daley, who also worked on the dog track appraisal -- was convicted of theft from a former employer, Business Incentives of Edina, Minn., in 2000. Daley served some jail time and, according to court records, made restitution in the amount of approximately $72,000, the amount he was accused of stealing.

In an interview on Friday, White said Daley's conviction occurred before Daley came to work for White's company, and he was not aware of Daley's conviction until recently. White said he has since checked with licensing officials, who have told him that Daley's conviction would not preclude him from getting an appraiser's license.

White went on to say that all Daley's work on the St. Croix Meadows appraisal was reviewed and verified for accuracy as is common practice in White's company.

Without violating client confidentiality, White provided a list of individuals, banks, law firms, business owners and the Department of Transportation in the Hudson area that his company has served including St. Croix County.

District Financial Services Director Tim Erickson said this is the third time the district has used Valuation Specialists for appraisals.

The company provided the appraisal of the Administrative Services Center on Brakke Road prior to the district's purchase of the property in 2007. It also conducted an appraisal of property at Highway 35 and Hanley Road that the district was considering. That property has since been purchased by Uline Corp.

Erickson said that employees of White's firm have always acted professionally. He also noted that the two prior appraisals the firm did for the district have proven conservative. White said the same about the dog track appraisal.

When asked if the information about Daley's past had changed her opinion of White or his appraisal, Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten said "no," that she had every confidence in the appraisal's validity. "We have a track record with this company and we have found them to be very reliable."

She did, however, voice concern over how the information was being used by some in the community to discredit the district, White's firm and the appraisal in hopes that it would influence the pending decision to rezone the dog track property.

Other allegations made by the person who brought the information to the Star-Observer were unsubstantiated, and no evidence of wrongdoing by the district or Valuation Specialists was provided.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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