City eyes funding for demolition

BLUE?EARTH – City Administrator Kathy Bailey told the Blue Earth City Council on Monday that asbestos was found in the city-owned Avalon building downtown.

She suggested delaying demolition.

“In 2012, the state Legislature passed a funding mechanism to assist cities and counties in removing these types of blighted business properties with the thought that they are often issues for redevelopment,” Bailey said.

Funding would not be available until July, if approved by the state. The grant could fund up to 50 percent of the cost of the project, including legal and testing costs.

To give the council an idea of the savings, Bailey said the Hanson building, also downtown, cost $65,535 to demolish. It was smaller than the Avalon building.

On the other hand, she noted that material from the Avalon building roof will continue to blow around. Since the city owns the property, it is liable for any problems.

“I took some roofing off my van,” said Chuck Hunt, managing editor of the Faribault County Register, which is housed near the Avalon building. “During the summer, pieces of the roof wound up in our parking lot.”

Councilman John Huisman wanted to know how much money the city is talking about for demolition. To that end, the council approved seeking bids for demolition of the building.

In other city business Monday, Rick Scholtes was sworn in as mayor and his council seat was declared vacant. The city will accept applications for the position through Jan. 30. Candidates will be interviewed by the council on Feb. 4.

Councilman John Huisman pointed out the seat is an at-large position and any city resident can apply.

In another matter, City Engineer Wes Brown explained feasibility studies on construction projects planned for Third Street between Highway 169 and Walnut; Highland Drive; 11th Street from Main Street to Moore Street; and 12th Street from Main Street to Galbraith Street.

The council set a public hearing on the projects for 5:05 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Public Safety Center (police and fire station).

On another topic, Bailey reported another dog bite incident that occurred Dec. 31. The dog has been quarantined for rabies, and the Humane Society has 14 days to petition for a hearing before the council on the potentially dangerous dog designation.

“Seems this is happening more all the time,” said Councilman Glenn Gaylord.

Huisman said a committee of law enforcement, the Humane Society and the city assembled last month and needed to meet to sort out the details of the rules on who handles what.

In mid-December, Police Chief Tom Fletcher was upset that a dog under investigation for killing domesticated rabbits was adopted from the shelter before the investigation was complete.

“Those types of things shouldn’t be happening,” Huisman said Monday.

Scholtes wants all foster dogs to be registered with the city.

“I’m really worried – sooner or later, it will be a child,” Gaylord said. “[We] don’t want a child to be seriously hurt or killed.”

In other business, the council approved:

o Formalizing the number of Charter Commission members to nine, to eliminate tie votes. The council appointed Scholtes to the group for a two-year term.

o Changing language in an ordinance to allow cemeteries in the B-2 Highway Business zone, because Riverside Cemetery, which was grandfathered in, is nearly full.