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If you can’t beat’em, join’em idea

By Staff | Aug 26, 2012

If you can’t beat’em, join’em.

That seems to be the basis for an unusual idea about what to do with a group of old, unused buildings on Blue Earth’s Main Street.

The buildings, sometimes referred to as the “Three Sisters,” are located on the corner of Seventh and Main.

The largest one once housed Fisher Pharmacy and also Wells Federal Bank. Upstairs had once been doctor’s offices and a Masonic Lodge meeting hall.

But, they have been unused for several years, just housing some old musical instruments at the end some of which are still inside according to some reports.

The three buildings were purchased a few years ago by a group called Hot Springs Citizens for Progress, based in Hot Springs, S.D. The non-profit charity also owns several old, abandoned buildings in Hot Springs and Custer, S.D. as well as the three in Blue Earth.

In our conversations in the past several years with someone from the Hot Springs group, the plan for the future of the buildings seemed to be to fix them up and rent them out.

Their website espouses their mission as buying historic buildings and restoring them to their original glory a noble goal.

They were hoping to get some type of state grant to assist them in restoring the three buildings to their original look. Although actual state grants for this type of work are few and far between.

And, the South Dakota owners were going to have local input as to what type of business would fit in to Blue Earth’s downtown.

It sounded good, but, none of that has ever happened.

The buildings have continued to be unused and appear abandoned. They are deteriorating rapidly.

Last year the three were vandalized with the windows broken out. The damage was ‘repaired’ by using large sheets of plywood to board up the window openings which only adds to the abandoned, ugly look.

People in Blue Earth are concerned. That includes the Chamber of Commerce, the City Council, business people and citizens who just have to walk or drive by that very busy downtown corner.

The general concensus has been that “something” needs to be done. And, it needs to be done before the buildings get into such poor condition that all that can be done is to tear them down.

There is enough of that going on in downtown Blue Earth as it is.

Several individuals and groups have tried to contact the Hot Springs Citizens for Progress to little or no avail. They wanted to know what was going on with the buildings, and in at least one case, wanted to try and purchase the buildings.

The city of Blue Earth has been trying to work on this issue and is in the process of exploring options for forcing action. Letters have been sent, and many have been returned unopened.

They have also instituted a $500 per year abandoned building fee, which was imposed on the owners of the “Three Sisters.” That has not been paid by the Hot Springs group.

Enter City Attorney David Frundt and Mayor Rob Hammond with a new twist to the saga.

While working on the legal process to try and get something done with the buildings, Frundt had an unusual idea.

Basically it is this. The Hot Springs Citizens for Progress is a non-profit group, organized as such under state and federal laws. As such a group, it is open to membership from the general public.

Frundt’s idea? Have people from Blue Earth become members of the group.

Mayor Hammond took the bull by the horns and organized a group of folks to send in letters requesting membership in the South Dakota organization. He says there are 25 people who have made the request, and at least one has heard a response.

Hammond isn’t sure what, exactly, is the ultimate goal here. But, with some Blue Earth members in the group, perhaps some type of information can be gleaned, and some action forced to happen.

After all, the Hot Springs group says they want to restore the buildings and want to work with the people of Blue Earth. What better way than to have some Blue Earth folks as members.

Who knows, the mayor adds, perhaps they can demand a meeting of the membership with the board of directors (there are three listed). And, perhaps that meeting could be held in Blue Earth and not in Hot Springs, S.D.

After all, there is a very nice meeting hall located upstairs in the “Three Sisters.”

Stay tuned for further updates. This could get interesting.