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Committee recommends City Council declare church unsafe

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news Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The City Council's Community Development Committee will be asking the council to declare the Mahanaim Assamblea de Dios Church at 707 Litchfield Ave. S.W. unsafe.

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The council Monday night will consider the committee's recommendation to declare the 88-year-old structure unsafe, to have City Attorney Rich Ronning initiate formal removal proceedings, and to have the Public Works Department secure the sidewalk on the north and east sides to protect those areas from falling masonry.

Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services, told the committee Thursday afternoon the owners have taken no action prior to an Oct. 23 deadline to voluntarily comply with orders written on Jan 15 by Fire Marshal Marv Calvin for making 12 corrective repairs to the structure before any use or occupancy could occur.

Peterson recommends the building be declared unsafe and removal proceedings undertaken.

On Sept. 22, 2009, City Building Official Randy Kardell wrote a letter to Mahanaim, saying the city learned that a large gathering had occurred at the church. Kardell said there has been no scheduled re-inspection to determine compliance with Calvin's orders.

"This building cannot be used or occupied as it currently stands,'' Kardell wrote.

Calvin's letter was written the day after city officials and three others conducted a walk-through inspection on Jan. 14. The walk-through was a follow-up to complaints received by the city that propane tanks were being used to heat the building.

According to Kardell, the heating system is inoperable and only a small portion of the building can meet code requirements for a 68-degree temperature throughout the building. He said half of the heating system has been scrapped.

The sanitary facilities were only partially operable.

Existing systems were compromised by obstructions, missing exit and emergency illumination and large amount of combustible debris. The water heater was incorrectly vented into the kitchen hood system, creating a serious safety issue.

The exterior brick veneer needs serious repair. Kardell said the Municipal Utilities office, located north of the church, has reported fallen bricks lying on the sidewalk and streets. He said it's a matter of time before a serious injury or accident occurs from falling bricks.

Broken and missing windows and open upper windows allow access by bats and pigeons, and missing water lets water into the structure.

The building is listed for sale by All-Star Realty of Willmar. Roberto Trevino, a Realtor with All-Star Realty, said he has been working with the church to sell the building. He said the building is closed and people cannot enter.

He produced a letter from the church pastor saying four of the 12 items corrective actions have been completed, but he said the church has no money for "getting it into shape.''

Trevino said he showed the building to two parties: one wanted to move the building and one wanted to refurbish it, but he's received no written offers. He said other real estate agents have looked at it.

Lance Peterson, president of Peterson Brothers Funeral Home, located just south of the church, said he is interested in the outcome of the property. He walked through the building about three weeks ago and said it is full of mold. He called it "an absolute disgrace.''

Rolf Peterson of Peterson Brothers said he remembers being in the church as a child.

"We have looked at it. There is an asbestos issue and a lead issue,'' he said. "It's very unfortunate it has gone as long as it has. It is sad to see. It's not a pleasant sight.''

Committee member Steve Ahmann said the city has no choice but to declare the building unsafe. He wanted to make sure, however, that someone could still have time to buy it.

Bruce Peterson said the two years that the building has been on the market has been adequate for something to happen.

Committee member Ron Christianson said repairs would be expensive.

"We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars,'' he said. "I don't think we're going to see someone putting money into it. It has seen its day.''

Kardell said he will post notices barring admittance to the building if the council declares the building unsafe.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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