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Buildings come and buildings go

By Staff | Sep 14, 2014

It’s an issue in small towns everywhere; one that will not be going away anytime soon.

Old, unused, sometimes abandoned buildings.

Oftentimes they are tax forfeited, meaning the county takes over ownership for non-payment of property taxes. By that time, the buildings are usually in moderate or serious disrepair.

Soon, the buildings become no longer just unsightly, they are hazardous.

Windows are broken, roofs are caving in, walls start to collapse. The buildings become hazardous to public health and safety.

Both Blue Earth and Winnebago are facing those scenarios again.

In Blue Earth, it is a building right across from City Hall. In Winnebago, it is one in the middle of a downtown block.

Once again, the cities have to look at their options; what few options they actually have.

In most cases, the only option is having the city take over ownership and then find the money in their already tight budgets to have the building torn down.

Blue Earth has done it before. Just in the last seven years, they have removed downtown buildings at the corner of Fifth and Main, Sixth and Main, and the Avalon Center in between those two intersections.

There have been many others over the years, and, of course, a house here and there has had to go as well.

There other possible option to demolition is that a private person or group will swoop in, buy the property, restore it and use it.

It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can seem miraculous.

The community of Wells took over the crumbling railroad depot just before it was slated to be demolished and turned it into a beautiful museum.

Sometimes empty buildings are purchased by individuals who fix them up and start a new business in them. That is fantastic. We can only pray it happens more often.

But, sometimes the buildings are purchased and still remain empty. Eventually the inevitable still happens and demolition eventually is the only answer.

In small towns across Minnesota and the Midwest, school buildings and grain elevators, often the largest structures in the community, are abandoned due to consolidation of services.

We have many of those in Faribault County.

In Blue Earth, WFS is tearing down an entire series of grain elevators it no longer uses. The area along the railroad tracks not to mention the skyline is getting a dramatic new empty look.

The new United South Central school building in Wells means there are now three old school buildings in the eastern half of the county in Kiester, Bricelyn and Wells. They match the ones the western half of the county in Frost, Delavan and Elmore. Some are being used for various things, while others are not.

Perhaps no where is this empty building issue more serious than in Elmore, which has at least a dozen empty business buildings and now faces what will happen to an empty, unused school building.

The point is this. Empty old buildings are a serious issue in small towns and communities in Faribault County and elsewhere. And, it will continue to be.

City Councils and people in the community will need to make some tough decisions and be willing to spend the dollars needed to do demolition work when needed.

Nothing makes a town look more uninviting than having all kinds of boarded up buildings, which are crumbling apart and falling down.

It’s a fast track to becoming a ghost town. Or at least looking like one.

Winnebago City Councilman Scott Robertson has it right. Each city needs to stay on top of this issue, work with whoever owns the property (especially if it is the county) and do whatever it takes to either fix the structure or tear it down.

It is a problem that is not going to stop anytime soon.