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Abate or wait?

By Staff | Jul 21, 2019

The vacant house on Upper Valley Drive has had a few visitors within the last two weeks.

According to neighbors who addressed the Blue Earth City Council during a public hearing on Monday, July 15, repairmen from multiple states have been putting in repairs into the home including shingling the roof, and working on plumbing.

One resident stated a vehicle with Michigan plates visited the vacant home to allegedly improve the plumbing of the house. Another neighbor stated he saw license plates from Utah, Arizona and other states as repairs were made on the roof.

There were some concerns from the council as to whether or not these out-of-state repairmen were making their repairs according to Minnesota building and repair codes.

“I just wonder if they know the Minnesota laws and rules for making these repairs,” stated councilman Dan Warner.

“The owners of the property are probably trying to make the improvements outlined by the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) inspection to try and sell the property,” said the city’s administrator, Tim Ibisch.

A proposed abatement for the 906 Valley Drive house was shared with the council from the Blue Earth city attorney, David Frundt. The abatement proposal incorporates two reports received by council including a building inspection report, a report containing cost estimates for repairs, as well as a number of complaints from neighboring properties in the Upper Valley Drive area.

“In order to save this house, someone would need to invest $80,000 to $100,000 to fix all that the water has damaged and that may be a very low estimate,” says a report from contractor Steve Pilcher. “It is too bad because in its day, it was a solid home. The foundation is all that is worth saving.”

According to the abatement proposal, Lakeview Loan Servicing, LLC out of Getzville, New York has until Sept. 30, to respond to the city’s letter and complete all the specified repairs in the proposal, otherwise, the city is taking steps to tear it down. If the city does choose to move forward with the abatement of the property, the city will be responsible for the cost of the demolition of the house.

During their meeting, the Blue Earth City Council also held a public hearing for the final assessments done to Blue Earth’s 13th and Moore Streets. Approximately five people from the public were present to discuss and ask questions on the assessments.

While members of the public present could not stop from sharing the benefits of the street improvements, a few letters were received by the council that stated otherwise.

After being assessed $1,223.34 for sidewalk replacement, a property owner wrote a letter to the City Council stating they were not pleased with the project team ripping up their sidewalk. They alleged in their letter that they recently redid their sidewalk and requested credit for the sidewalk they built that was removed by the city.

However, city administrator Tim Ibisch stated that he and the city hall staff could find no record of any permits filled out by the property owners for their sidewalk improvements.

“There is no permit from the city for repairs or improvements with this address,” said Ibisch to the council. “It’s hard to say whether those improvements were actually done by them or not, but we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt.”

Council members debated about whether or not the sidewalk had been improved by the current property owners. The council cited a Google Maps satellite photo of the property to show where the improvements may have been made by the property owners.

“It shows in the picture what was done,” said councilman Russ Erichsrud. “You can tell the old sidewalk from the new sidewalk pretty clearly.”

“Sounds like they seem to be under the impression the city wasn’t going to take out the whole thing,” responded councilman Glenn Gaylord.

Councilman Dan Warner stated that if the permit process was bypassed by the home owners, the residents should not receive compensation for the sidewalk removal.

“If they felt an honest concern, they had ample opportunity to bring their concerns to the council,” replied Warner.

Blue Earth’s city engineer Wes Brown calculated $271.20 to be credited to the property for a 20-foot area that was improved on by the city, if the council wanted to act on the resident’s request. The council decided to take a roll call vote on the issue, while Ibisch stated council had voted “no” on similar issues in the city’s past.

The motion to reimburse the residents for $271.20 passed four to three.

Later in the meeting, Brown addressed the council with an update on the Sailor Street improvement project and the northeast housing project.

The engineer stated Blue Earth Light & Water had finished their portions of the northeast housing project and CenterPoint Energy was wrapping up their portion of installing gas and electric grids. After the wrap up, all the city will need are people to fill the lots with houses.

As for Sailor Street’s facelift, sewer and water mains have been completed on First Street and the teams are finishing up on Riverview Lane as they begin working south. Brown hopes by next week, the construction team will have base material in, and in two weeks time will already be starting on Third Street.

The council also:

Heard from Blue Earth’s summer administrative intern, Connor LaPointe who brought a comprehensive plan for the city of Blue Earth to present to the council. The council stated they would give it a thorough read and welcome LaPointe back to their next regular meeting on Aug. 5.

Passed an ordinance authorizing city sales tax.

Passed an amendment with regard to Boulevard regulation. The amendment added language regarding boulevard planting stating, “new trees, herbaceous plants or shrubs shall be planted at least five feet behind what is designated as the curb, plantings shall be reviewed by both the City Engineer and Public Works Director, and they shall be planted in a manner consistent with the terms of the ordinance. A boulevard is defined as that part of the public right-of-way which exists between the edge of the street and the beginning of a private landowner’s property line. Planting shall be permitted by permit only.”