Farmland demolition may begin next month

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2002

The city of Albert Lea is in the final stages of negotiating a deal which will start demolition on the Farmland building as soon as Oct. 1 and will give the city ownership of the property, according to City Manager Paul Sparks.

&uot;We are in the process of negotiating a couple of things,&uot; he explained. &uot;One is the demolition of the existing building. We are getting close to that. When [the demolition] is concluded we would take title to the real estate.&uot;

Sparks said the city and Farmland are now working out terms and conditions of the demolition project. He said he is positive that an agreement is near.

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&uot;What we’re trying to do is work out just how we can handle this so that we don’t end up responsible for something with no money to pay for it. And we are getting close to that,&uot; Sparks said.

Farmland has made a bid for the demolition and has estimated the cost at under $2.4 million.

According to Sparks, the city is negotiating a deal so any extra costs tacked on to the project by the contractors as the demolition occurs will be paid by Farmland instead of the city.

Minnesota law regarding the demolition of burned-down businesses declares that cities are entitled to 25 percent of insurance money claimed by that business.

Through this law, Albert Lea has collected 25 percent of insurance money claimed by Farmland – which is as of now $2.45 million – in an escrow fund. An escrow fund is a legally constituted fund that can be only used for a certain purpose. This escrow is strictly for the purpose of the demolition of the old Farmland plant.

As for a start date for demolition, &uot;I think we are on target for as early as the first of October,&uot; Sparks said. He said the demolition should be done before snowfall.

If negotiations do give the city the title to the land, of which Sparks said he is very positive, the city will take title to the property after demolition.

The next step after demolition would be to clean up the subterranean pollution at the site, according to Sparks. He said this can be done through grants from the state as well as money received through lawsuits against the former company Wilson’s insurance companies.

The city has been pursuing a lawsuit against the former insurers of Wilson for pollution caused while Wilson owned the plant. The city has hired a lawyer who specializes in cases like these.

After cleanup Sparks said the land will then be free to be developed.

&uot;It can never be residential because of the subterranean pollution,&uot; he said. &uot;To clean it up to a level where residential sites are permitted would cost far more than anyone would be willing to pay and more than what we would ever possibly have the money to do.&uot;

Sparks said there are certain developments he thinks would fit well there, but would rather that it wasn’t developed as an industrial site again. &uot;We’d like to see it developed into a combination of open space, commercial and recreational land.&uot;

Sparks said that although he would like to see these things, public input will be the biggest influence. &uot;I’d like to see quite a bit of public input into how we deal with this property,&uot; he said.