Fire damaged building had no insurance
By Bert Lehman
The owner of the building located at 46A S. Main Street did not have insurance on the building when it was damaged by fire.
Now, the city of Clintonville is on the hook for up to $47,000 to remove the building.
The Clintonville City Council and the Finance Committee had both previously asked that the building situation at 46A South Main Street be rectified as soon as possible.
What to do with the building was discussed at the Finance Committee meeting Feb. 14.
Clintonville City Administrator Chuck Kell told the Finance Committee that the city was finally successful in locating the owner of the building, but there is no insurance on the building and the owner doesn’t have the funds to fix or remove the building.
After more research, Clintonville City Attorney Keith Steckbauer found provisions in the city’s municipal code where the city can take “emergency action” to remove a structure when there is danger to the public, Kell said.
“We feel that’s definitely the case here, with the parapet wall that is not supported, it’s up in the air, and it could fall on the Bluebird Cafe or potentially into the sidewalk or street,” Kell said.
Kell said Steckbauer has issued orders and served those orders to the owner. This meets all legal parameters to allow the city to move forward with removing the building. In the meantime, Kray Brown, Public Works director for the city of Clintonville, had sought proposals from companies for removal of the building.
“We’ve had an asbestos inspection done,” Kell said. “Kray’s also worked with We Energies and the DNR with the permits that are required and disconnecting gas service.”
The city received bids from four companies to remove the building. The low bid came from Go Green of Menasha for $46,000. Kell said bids came in as high as $76,500.
Kell added that when other costs such as permits and inspections are added in, the total cost will be around $47,000.
“We’re ready to hire a contractor and get this going but we need approval of money to do it,” Kell told the committee.
An agreement was also written and agreed to by the adjourning property owners, where those property owners are giving the city approval to stabilize the wall with supports off of surrounding buildings, so the building will tip in, instead of out, and not damage other buildings.
Committee member Lance Bagstad asked if the bid from Go Green included liability insurance if problems occur during the demolition.
“I just don’t want to see us open ourselves up to additional liabilities,” Bagstad said.
Kell said Go Green does have insurance as that was part of the bid package.
Kell added that the city has contacted the owners of the two buildings next to the building to be removed and informed them that the city is not responsible for the condition of any walls of their buildings, once the building in question is removed.
“In the case of the Bluebird (Cafe), that’s a common wall,” Kell said. “When that building gets pulled away there could be open (wall). They’ve been apprised that they need to have a contractor ready to go to fix and seal up their building and make sure it’s weatherproof.”
“If they (Go Green) do something wrong, it’s on them to fix,” Brown added. “There are a lot of unknowns to this so with the requirement of having adjacent owners having contractors there, (we’re) making them well aware that anything can happen.”
A garage on the property behind the building to be removed also needs to be removed, Kell said. This must be done first in order to get access to remove the building. Removal of the garage is included in the bid.
Brown said it should take two to three days to remove the building and garage.
“It depends on the asbestos inspection,” Brown said. “We aren’t able to go in there to do an actual inspection, but what we are looking at doing is knocking the building down. If there appears to be asbestos in it, that will be set to the side. Everything else will be recycled.”
If the items set to the side test positive for asbestos, it will go through the normal procedures for removing asbestos material.
“We don’t know what’s in there,” Brown said.
Kell added that the bids were structured as a worst case scenario.
Bagstad asked if city administration had a recommendation as to where to pull the funds out of the budget to cover the cost of removing the building.
Finance Committee Chairman Mark Doornink said the only place there are funds available is undesignated fund balance.
Bagstad agreed, adding that these are the types of situations that undesignated fund balance is to be used for.
“It’s a one-time expense, not a recurring expense,” Bagstad said.
Doornink said he didn’t know if the city would have any recourse to recover the funds from the owner of the building, but said the city would try to recover the costs.
Kell said it would have to be placed as a charge against the property.
The committee was also informed this property is behind on its property tax payments.
“Obviously this is something that the city is going to have to incur,” said Lois Bressette, mayor of Clintonville. “I understand that the taxes have not been paid for the last couple years. However, I still think that we should try to recover this as an indication to other business owners that they need to be responsible for their business.”
She added that the city has paid a lot of money over the last year to remove buildings in the city.
“Even if this goes nowhere in regards to trying to get that money back from the property owner, I still think we need to demonstrate to the public that we’re going to go after every means possible because this can’t continue.”
The committee voted to recommend to city council that the city use $47,000 from undesignated fund balance to cover the costs for the removal of the fire damaged building at 46 and 46A S. Main Street. The city council approved the recommendation at its meeting the next night.