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Mahanaim Assamblea offers to give deteriorating church to city

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WILLMAR -- The Mahanaim Assamblea de Dios Church has made an oral offer to give its deteriorating church property at Seventh Street and Litchfield Avenue Southwest to the city.

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The offer was reported to city officials on Thursday by Robert Trevino, a Realtor with All-Star Realty of Willmar. All-Star has listed the property for sale. Trevino said the offer was made because church members do not have the money to make structural repairs, which have been ordered by the city.

"The owners made the offer because they don't have the funds to remediate the property,'' said Trevino, who is representing the church. He said nothing has been presented in writing.

"Once we hear back from the city and see what their interest is in doing, then I'm sure there will be an offer in writing,'' Trevino said Friday.

The City Council on Nov. 2 voted to declare the 88-year-old building unsafe and directed City Attorney Rich Ronning to begin legal proceedings to have the building demolished.

Trevino reported the offer to Ronning on Thursday. Ronning relayed it to City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday, who forwarded the offer Thursday afternoon to the City Council's Community Development Committee, which happened to be meeting Thursday afternoon.

Ronning said Friday the oral offer was not a firm offer.

"Until we see a firm proposal in writing, probably not a whole lot's going to happen,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Ronning said he'll continue with condemnation proceedings in district court "and at least have the council adopt an order so that we're ready to proceed on that if no written proposal is sent to us that is acceptable.''

If the proposal is made in writing and if that proposal is acceptable, then Ronning would recommend the city have an environmental assessment done before accepting the offer "to make sure they know what they're getting into.''

One hazardous material already identified in the building by City Building Official Randy Kardell is asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems.

City assessment records indicate the property consists of two lots, each 150 feet by 75 feet. Records indicate Mahanaim bought the building from a local law firm in 2001 for $375,000. The law firm had operated the building as an office from 1980 to 1999. The building, constructed between March 1920 and May 1921, had been home to First Covenant Church. In October 1979, First Covenant moved to its present sanctuary on Willmar Avenue Southwest.

City officials have roughly estimated the cost of demolition and removal at $150,000 to $180,000. The cost is due partly to specialized process for removing asbestos.

Ronning guessed the cost of legal condemnation proceedings at less than $1,000 if the owners did not contest the action to $10,000 or more if the owners did contest it.

If the city demolishes and removes the building, the two bare lots would have a combined value of $112,500, said City Assessor Pat Erickson, based on land sales. Erickson said the value is conservative.

The committee received the offer as information for further council discussion Monday night. Committee members and city staff say the offer presents development opportunities, such as a site for an office building.

Committee members raised the possibility of a setting a precedent by accepting the offer. Bruce Peterson, director city planning and development services, said the council is certainly free to evaluate each proposal on its own merits and he said there is no legal basis for anyone to force the city to do that.

In other business, the committee recommended the council approve a resolution of support for further study of passenger rail service along the Little Crow Transit Way from Minneapolis to Willmar as part of a statewide passenger rail plan.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.

The council will receive a presentation about YMCA Youth in Government, will take public comments during the open forum, and will receive reports from the Finance Committee, Public Works/Safety Committee and Community Development Committee.

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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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