Paying for demolition
To demolish or not to demolish, that was the question at last week’s Blue Earth City Council meeting.
And, how to pay for any demolition costs in the coming year and who might help pay for those expenses were questions which were also asked.
The council discussed the possible new County Demolition Policy that is currently under consideration by the Faribault County Board.
And, they had a few issues with it.
City Administrator Tim Ibisch pointed out the county is interested in splitting building demo costs with cities in the county, but only for part of the demolition.
“They only want to help with getting the building to ground level and no extra costs,” Ibisch said. “And the policy seems to only cover commercial buildings, not residences.”
And, Mayor Rick Scholtes had another issue with the policy, which he brought up to commissioner John Roper, who was present at the City Council meeting.
“The policy only covers splitting the costs on tax-forfeited properties,” Scholtes said. “Where is the help if they are not tax forfeited? Where is the incentive for cities like Blue Earth to take a proactive approach and get rid of these buildings before they are falling down. We don’t want to wait five years before they are forfeited back to the county (for non-payment of property taxes).”
He specifically mentioned the Andy’s Oriental Cafe building on Main Street, which the city recently gained ownership of and plans on razing soon.
Roper agreed, and said he would bring that up at the next County Board meeting.
Ibisch gave a report on two houses the city had wanted to get demolished. One of them the owner has torn down himself, and the other one, on South Nicollet, now has someone living in it again.
One set of buildings on Main Street may not be on the city’s demolition list in the near future, the city administrator also reported.
Ibisch said the structures known as the Three Sisters at the intersection of Main and Seventh streets were in pretty fair shape.
City officials and law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on the buildings two weeks ago and Ibisch gave a report at last Monday’s meeting.
“The walls and the overall structure were OK, and the odor was not as bad as we had feared,” Ibisch said. “There was a lot of clutter, but overall they were still in fairly good shape.”
He added that he felt there was no reason to condemn the buildings or force action to acquire them at this time, although he did add that they had not inspected the roof.
“I don’t think we should look at demolition as the only option here,” Ibisch said. “There is still plenty of potential in these buildings. And besides, demolition costs would be substantial in this case.”
Council members did ask about unpaid taxes and were reminded that the owners, Hot Springs Citizens for Progress, is a non-profit organization and is exempt from taxes.
“We have charged them $500 per year under the vacant building ordinance, which they have never paid,” city attorney David Frundt said. “And they also will not be exempt from paying all the assessments for the Main Street project this summer.”
Those assessments will be nearly $30,000, total for the three buildings, according to preliminary estimates.