Martin Co. to replace lost shop

FAIRMONT – Following a fire in Martin County’s shop building near Dunnell, the highway department was left wondering what to repair and what to replace.

The final decisions on what to do were reached Tuesday by Martin County commissioners.

“We had four areas we were focusing [on],” said Martin County Engineer Kevin Peyman. “There was the motor grader, the truck, the building itself and the other contents in the building.”

A fire broke out at the site during spring in the starter of the motor grader. No one was on the premises when the fire began and no one was injured.

Issues with the truck and grader and other building contents were resolved last month, but the final decision on the building was left to commissioners.

“We’ve been given the options of repairing or replacing,” Peyman said. “The building was not considered a total loss … It was built in 1940 with the second stall added in 1963. But the original size was not ideal. As technology has changed, and the equipment has gotten bigger, it hasn’t all fit in the garage. We’ve had to remove plows from the trucks before we put them in. It doesn’t take long, but in the winter, the ice and snow doesn’t melt off the plows, and doesn’t allow us to inspect them.”

The county’s insurer paid $57,473 for the repair of the shop, with repair quotes coming in at $61,592 and $97,455.

To construct a new steel building, the insurer will pay $97,500, while Peyman gave an estimate of $126,000. However, he said the county can do some of its own work to keep costs down.

“It’s almost too easy,” said Commissioner Steve Pierce. “Get a new building and bulldoze the other one out,” he said, making a motion to replace the shop.

“As we worked on it, it turned into a no-brainer,” Peyman agreed. “It’s been a slow and frustrating process at times, but [our insurer] has been good to us.”

The motion to build a new shop building in Dunnell passed unanimously.

In other business, commissioners unanimously opposed a request by U.S. Foods to waive its obligation to repay JOBZ tax benefits to the county.

Martin County Auditor Jim Forshee received information from the Minnesota Department of Revenue that because the company left Martin County, it is no longer qualified to receive JOBZ benefits and must repay the tax benefits it received in the two tax years preceding the company’s non-compliance.

U.S. Foods had petitioned the state, requesting a waiver.

“This is another no-brainer,” Pierce said.

Occasionally, a request to waive is granted, such as if a business ceased to operate as a result of circumstances beyond its control. But Martin County Assessor Dan Whitman observed the current situation was exactly what JOBZ was meant to avoid.

“They closed the plant, took the jobs and left,” he said.