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County wants to pay half of original estimate

By Staff | Sep 20, 2015

After much back and forth, there still doesn’t seem to be a settlement between the city of Wells and the County Board in the near future.

Since the demolition of the Frank Bros. Elevator, the city and county have had differing opinions on the cost-share on the project.

The project was first proposed to the County Board at a total estimated cost of just more than $26,000, of which the county agreed to pay half and participate in demolition to ground level.

However, when the final cost came in, the county’s share had nearly doubled and they didn’t want to pay more without a little explanation.

“We thought we had an agreement with the city, but the city didn’t follow through,” commissioner Greg Young said.

Representatives from the County Board met with Ron Gaines, the mayor of Wells, in an attempt to reach a settlement.

“We originally agreed to pay for half based on the figure of $26,000,” Young said. “Now the project is done and the final cost is $48,000 and they are asking us to pay $24,000.”

In the meeting between the county reps and the mayor of Wells, the county figured what the cost of the demolition below ground level was and they figured the county’s share without the basement removal factored in.

“We came up with a real fair price,” Young said, figuring the cost for below ground level cleanup ending up costing around $12,000. “We offered $18,750, he took it back to the City Council and they rejected our offer.”

An email to the county says the offer did not consider the amount of staff time put into the demolition project and added they feel the county should be responsible for 100 percent of the demo cost but the city had been willing to participate 50-50.

Since the city did not make a counter offer the board did not take any further action on the matter at the time of their meeting last Tuesday.

In an effort to avoid any future debates, the County Board has been working for several months to draft a policy for the demolition of tax-forfeited properties.

The commissioners met last Tuesday in a work session along with city administrators, council members and city clerks from around Faribault County to discuss a draft of this policy.

“Consistency is going to be the most important,” Blue Earth city administrator Tim Ibisch said. Which is just what the commissioners are hoping to accomplish by putting a policy into place.

“There are a lot of variables in something like this,”?commissioner Tom Loveall adds.

The draft of the Faribault County Forfeited Tax Demolition Policy outlines when the county may deem it necessary to proceed with demolition, what would be permitted on the handling of those properties, how the board will review each property and more.

However, the bulk of the debate came from cost sharing and how the city and county participation would work.

In the past, the county has taken each demolition on a case by case basis deciding the dollar amount they would provide, as well as, what amount of work they would pay for.

They would then allow the city to go ahead with the process and find contractors to complete the work.

But, recent projects have ended up surprising the County Board when numbers for the finished project come back much higher than they had originally discussed.

“If a city determines that a permitted action is needed on a parcel and wishes to have county participation in the project, they should contact the county auditor who shall submit the request to the County Board with an agreement based upon this policy,”?the draft of the policy read. “No permitted action will be authorized without official County Board action.”

And, as for cost sharing, the policy states the county will participate in 50 percent of the cost of demolition, to ground level.

“My thought is we have agreement with cities. We’ll participate 50-50 up to a certain dollar amount,”?commissioner Bill Groskreutz said. “Then, say this is your (the city’s) parcel you can do what you want past that.”

Groskreutz added that by doing so, the county could budget and stick to a budget more easily than participating 50-50 for whatever the cost of the project is.

“We have already spent more than twice what we budgeted (for building demolitions) this year,”?he said.

The other commissioners agreed, saying that it is wise to stick to a stricter budget in these situations.

“We can’t just open the purse strings,”?commissioner Tom Warmka said. “I don’t want to go over our budget.”

Commissioner Greg Young suggested they work more closely with the cities when they work on a demolition project, rather than agreeing to pay half and then letting the cities take the lead.

“Have representatives from the county work with representatives from the city,” he said. “That way we know every detail before we got going.”

Some of the representatives from smaller towns and cities in Faribault County were concerned with heading up projects on their own.

The city clerks especially worried since they don’t have full-time staff or the background to plan a demolition project on their own and hoped for more help from the county.

However, no action was taken by the County Board since it was a work session. The commissioners will take the session into consideration as they continue to fine tune the policy.