Lack of response from building owners frustrates city
WILLMAR — The city has been waiting for the past several months to hear whether the Taiwanese owners of the UMEC USA building in downtown Willmar will either demolish or make repairs to the deteriorating structure.
“We have had no response from the company as to what their plans are going to be,’’ said Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services for the city of Willmar.
UMEC had an office for its electronics business in the former Erickson Furniture building since 2007, but moved to Las Vegas in September. The vacant building has deteriorated over the years to the point where a number of conditions warranted an unsafe building declaration.
The City Council voted in early February to issue an unsafe building declaration and gave UMEC 30 days to have the conditions corrected or have the building torn down.
UMEC received a permit to demolish the building. But it’s been more than 90 days since the permit was obtained and nothing has been done, other than to erect barricades around the unsafe parking area and place plastic sheeting on the south side of the building.
Peterson said he sent correspondence to the property manager. Peterson received contact information for the corporation in Taiwan and asked them in a letter to provide an update.
“I said your intentions are kind of murky. You asked for a demo permit. The permit was granted. Now we hear through the grapevine that work is going on in the interior to make some changes there. We saw some electrical demolition. We need to know what’s going on,’’ Peterson said.
He said the building has some serious structural issues that need to be addressed, and many of those require structural engineering and engineering plans. In addition, the exterior is missing fascia board and has some rust and mold. All of those issues are part of the structural deterioration that must be addressed, he said.
Peterson has said that city staff will work with UMEC if the company is interested in correcting the conditions that warrant the declaration.
If the company eliminates the safety hazards, then the city’s authority in the matter pretty much dissipates and the company has an empty building for sale.
But if UMEC does nothing, according to Peterson, the city could go to court and obtain a demolition order.
“We need to figure out a strategy to move them along,’’ he said.