Council votes to proceed with demolitions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Public hearings on demolitions dominated the agenda at last night’s Albert Lea City Council meeting.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Public hearings on demolitions dominated the agenda at last night’s Albert Lea City Council meeting. Although the main item for most people in attendance was the pending demolition of Farmland, the council also had to decide the fate of three other structures.

Email newsletter signup

With only Councilor Ron Sorenson absent, the council voted unanimously to proceed with the demolition of three structures, including the Farmland Foods plant, and delayed a decision on demolishing the fourth. The demolitions of the two houses which were approved, located at 206 W. Third St. and 106 S. Ermina, are being undertaken with the signed consent of the property owners. This allows the city to proceed with the demolitions without the need for a public hearing, said Albert Lea City Manager Paul Sparks.

The other property, located at 722 S. Washington Ave., was discussed in a public hearing. The property owner, Juan Juarez, addressed the council through an interpreter, Bob Garza. According to Garza, Juarez said he has been working slowly at renovating the structure, including repairs to the basement and new wiring. Juarez requested more time to complete further repairs.

Richard Sydnes, Albert Lea Fire Chief, was asked to speak to the condition of the building and described it as deteriorated behind realistic expectations of renovation. His estimate at the minimum costs of bringing the structure to code was $50,000. Sydnes also reported that the city has been receiving complaints about the structure since 1999, one year after it was purchased at a county auction for $1,000 and then sold to Juarez. According to city records, although a roofing permit was obtained in 1999, no permits were issued for any of the other renovations and building inspections have shown that much of the work is not up to city building and fire codes.

&uot;We would be doing him a disservice if we didn’t advise him to take this house down,&uot; Sydnes told the council.

Sparks added that the city inspector’s concerns related to the ability of the homeowner to be able to financially support the needed repairs and renovations. There are also concerns about public safety, he said.

Garza asked on behalf of Juarez whether there was any way for city staff to meet with Juarez to explain the situation. Sparks agreed to send a staff member with a translator to meet with him.

Councilor Al Brooks offered a motion to table any decisions about the demolition order until the next council meeting, to allow the city time to make sure that the homeowner understood the situation. The council voted unanimously to table the decision until the next council meeting.

In other business, the council:

Granted permission to David Berg to provide boat rentals from his residence, located at 137 Bridge Ave. Berg has requested and received permission to offer boat rentals in past summers. Council unanimously approved a motion allowing Berg to operate a boat rental facility, but only during the months and at the times in the request (May to Sept., from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.) and with the condition that nothing else be sold or rented besides the boats listed in the request.

– Approved contracts to provide city staff to the Housing Authority and Port Authority, rental contracts with the Figure Skating Club, for use of the City Arena, and the Rendezvous, for the use of Bancroft Bay Park.

– Called for public hearings on Feb. 25 and March 11 to discuss street overlay projects in the Second Ward and downtown. Total costs of the two projects are estimated at approximately $1.7 million. The projects will be carried out in phases, with some work this year, and the rest in 2003.

– Approved charitable gambling licenses for Ducks Unlimited and Recreation Glenville Community Corp., a new liquor license for the Crescendo restaurant and a liquor license transfer for the Office II Bar, approved council procedures for 2002, and certified the Albert Lea Tribune as the offical newspaper for the City of Albert Lea.