Council votes to tear down building
NEW ULM — The New Ulm City Council was leaning both ways on whether to repair or demolish the building at 307 N. Minnesota St. but ultimately fell on the side of demolition by a 3-2 vote.
The city has been dealing with maintenance issues associated with this property since July 2015. Currently, the north wall of the building is crumbling. The building owner has stated he did not have the money to fix the wall, leaving the city to take action and assess the cost back to the property.
Neither option was popular with the council as both held potential hidden costs making it difficult to determine the lower-cost action.
Building Inspector Ellwood Zabel received one quote to repair the wall at $108,000 with other potential costs required to make code upgrades.
Zabel received two quotes for demolitions. The lower quote was for $38,640 but this does not cover the costs if the city is forced to stabilize the wall of the adjoining building.
The building at 307 N. Minnesota is adjacent to The Journal building, and the city is uncertain if the buildings have a common wall or separate walls. If The Journal building does not have an exterior wall, the city would be responsible for covering it, potentially raising the cost another $45,000. Roof repairs would also be necessary and could cost $6,000 to $7,000. Other unforeseen costs could arise with demolition.
City Councilor David Christian initially favored repairs, believing the demolition of an older building could cost more long-term. If the building were repaired, it was another building that could be used for a business. He preferred repairing the building, but wouldn’t fight against demolition. Christian did not want to continue delaying a decision because the wall was at risk of falling in eventually.
Councilor Larry Mack favored the demolition option.
“The building is going to keep on taking,” he said. “We fix it, there are countless other repairs.”
The city would assess the cost of repairs, but it is unknown if the owner will stay current on taxes. The city could become an owner through tax forfeiture.
Mack made the motion to move forward with demolition with a second from Councilor Les Schultz.
Schultz said he was not a fan of either decision. Mack agreed he would rather see buildings fixed, but believed it was a can of worms to try and fix it.
Council President Andrea Boettger called the vote to approve demolition. Only council Mack voted “aye on the initial vote”. A second call for the vote received majority approval, but Schultz had switched to a nay vote after seconding the original motion. A roll call vote was made, and demolition was approved 3-2 with Schultz and Councilor Eric Warmka voting against.
The council approved a development agreement with M & D Properties for a property at 1406-1446 N. 6th St. to be platted as Oak Bluffs Ninth Addition.
The development agreement covers issues associated with the platting and development of a five-lot residential subdivision. Two of the lots would accommodate single-family dwellings, two lots would accommodate one twin home and the remaining lot would accommodate three fourplexes. The property is undeveloped, currently is being farmed and totals 4.75 acres.
The council approved the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grant for $3,000. The grant would fund a portion of the proposed intersection enhancements at 4th South Street and Broadway.
City Engineer Joe Stadheim said it was approved by the Safety Commission, and Safe Routes to School has identified the need for safer crossings on Broadway, specifically between Center Street and 10th South Street.
This segment of Broadway falls under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Any improvements need to be reviewed and approved by MnDOT. MnDOT has approved the single marked crosswalk. They also recommended that the crosswalk be installed with ground-in epoxy treatments rather than the traditional surface applied latex paint that is utilized elsewhere in the city. The ground-in epoxy treatments have been shown to have a much longer life on heavily traveled segments as opposed to surface-applied latex.
This mini-grant was applied on the city’s behalf to assist with funding the proposed intersection improvements at 4th South Street & Broadway. The improvements need to be completed by Oct. 31, to receive reimbursement for improvements up to $3,000.
The proposed treatments are estimated at $9,300. With the grant, $6,300 would remain unfunded. By accepting this grant, the city would commit implementation of the intersection enhancements.
Stadheim said the end goal for this intersection would be the installation of a HAWK system. The HAWK system is a pedestrian-activated stoplight for pedestrians to cross, but the cost is high without additional funding. These systems are estimated between $150,000 and $200,000.
Stadheim considered this crossing a short-term solution. The improvements would include signs and the ground-in epoxy pavement markings at a $9,300 cost. The grant would reduce costs to $6,300.
The council unanimously authorized the use of 27 parking stalls by the New Ulm Craft & Vendor Events (NUCVE) Board located in the 2nd North and Broadway parking lot adjacent to City Hall. The lots would be used to hold a Shop the Lot Craft & Vendor Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 12, June 26, July 10, July 24, August 14 and August 28.
City Manager Chris Dalton said these craft events have been happening for two years and is now expanded to six days. No complaints have been received about the craft events. It does bring traffic downtown and promotes the businesses.