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Cleaning up the Three Sisters

By Staff | Nov 27, 2016

Blue Earth city administrator Tim Ibisch, and Faribault County Development Corporation director Tim Clawson, stand in the south building of the Three Sisters, with some of the 40 pianos.

Those Three Sisters might just clean up nice. But, it is going to take a whole lot of effort to get them looking beautiful again.

Tim Clawson, the executive director of the Faribault County Development Corporation, gave an update on the cleanup of the three buildings at a special Blue Earth City Council meeting on Thursday night, Nov. 17.

“We started cleanup this morning,” Clawson told the council. “And we have already filled five dumpster loads. And that is just from the main floor. Most of the real junk is in the basement.”

Clawson reported most of the work is being done by the Faribault County Sentence to Serve group, under the direction of Tom Hennen.

“We are grateful the county agreed to let the Sentence to Serve folks help us out with this,” Clawson said. “It is making a real difference with how much we can get done.”

Blue Earth city administrator Tim Ibisch, and Faribault County Development Corporation director Tim Clawson, stand in the south building of the Three Sisters, with one of four pipe organs.

The next day after the meeting, Friday, Nov. 18, the crew started hitting the basement and filling more dumpster loads.

“We moved all the pianos to the sides of the rooms,” says city administrator Tim Ibisch. “And that was a lot of work.”

No doubt, since there are more than 40 pianos and at least four pipe organs. And, a lot of miscellaneous piano and organ parts.

“We want to get this all cleaned up as best we can, expecially the junk,” Ibisch says. “Before we let people interested in possibly purchasing the properties come in for a look.”

Ibisch says the south building is the largest and is actually in very good shape.

A member of the Sentence to Serve crew busy cleaning in the basement.

“I think it could look pretty nice with just some paint on the walls and scrubbing and waxing the floors,” he says. “It has a real nice metal ceiling, too.”

There are issues however, some a bit serious, he admits.

“There isn’t any heat or air conditioning source, and I am sure the wiring and plumbing are going to need updating,” he pointed out. “It had steam heat at one time, but that is all removed.”

And while there does not seem to be much for water damage in the ceilings, the city is having the roofs inspected to see if there are any issues with any of those. In fact that inspection was completed last week and the report should be back in a few days.

Ibisch says all three buildings have great potential, in his opinion. While they all need some upgrades and cleaning, they are in fairly good shape, and seem to be structurally quite sound.

“There are apartments upstairs, and they are in pretty tough shape, but they could be made into some rental properties,” he says. “They will need some work, of course.”

The city and its Economic Development Authority are soon going to be the owners of the Three Sisters and they plan on putting some money into upgrades into the properties right away, even before they have actual ownership.

New windows, a new door, even a new awning to match others in the downtown district, are all on order and will be installed soon.

The other item which needs to be taken care of is what to do with all those pianos and organs.

The plan is to hold an auction in the future and try and market the musical instruments and a variety of miscellaneous other items which may have some value.

At the last council meeting, city attorney David Frundt relayed the timeline for properly disposing of the personal property, including the pianos.

“Official notices will be in the newspapers next week,” Frundt related. “Those notices have to run for 30 days. Then, after that, there is a 90-day period for people to respond and before the decision can be made to sell the items or not.”

So in essence, the city and county have to wait four months, one councilman queried, to which Frundt responded with yes.

Ibisch and Clawson say this doesn’t mean they won’t be pursuing selling the buildings to someone who has an interest in one, two or all three of them. And, actually, there are four separate parcels, with one of the buildings being located on the back side of the other three.

“We can always move the pianos out if we need to and store them somewhere else,” Ibisch says. “If we have someone interested in the buildings.”

But first, they need to get those Sisters into some shape.

“It is a big project, but we are going to continue to peck away at it,” Clawson says. “One dumpster at a time.”