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Demolition of Mahanaim Church tentatively set for Feb. 13 and 14

The Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios Church on the corner of Litchfield Avenue and Seventh Street Southwest in Willmar is scheduled to be razed Feb 13 and 14. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- The deteriorated Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios Church at the corner of Litchfield Avenue and Seventh Street Southwest is tentatively scheduled for demolition Feb. 13 and 14, a city official says.

Bruce Peterson, city director of planning and development services, says the demolition permit that had been issued to Chad Monson of Monson Excavating of Willmar has now been assigned to MAAC Inc. of Montevideo, the company that removed asbestos from the building last summer before demolition could proceed.

City officials had earlier thought that Monson would be buying the church property and tearing it down, but the deal did not go through.

MAAC placed a lien for its asbestos removal costs, estimated at around $90,000, against the property.

The company in Oregon that holds the church property mortgage has agreed to subordinate its mortgage to the lien, which means that if someone would buy the property that the lien would be paid ahead of the mortgage.

Peterson says he understands the subordination agreement was being amended to include demolition cost as well as the asbestos abatement cost and that MAAC wanted the agreement signed by the church before demolition proceeded.

Peterson had thought the church would be demolished this weekend, but the teardown date was delayed in order to secure all necessary signatures.

Since U.S. Highway 12 follows Litchfield Avenue, the city engineering department is working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation on traffic control. Peterson said the southerly two lanes of Litchfield Avenue will be blocked and traffic will be routed onto the northerly two lanes during the project.

In an interview, Peterson said he is pleased and grateful the church will be removed without the use of public funds.

"That's why we worked with the church owners and with the contractors,'' he said. "And why the process took longer than we had wanted was because if at all possible we wanted to keep the city out of it from a financial standpoint.''

The church was built in 1921 and was used as a church until 1979. It served as a law office from 1980 to 1999. In 2001, it was bought by Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios and served as a church for a number of years until the congregation could no longer afford to make repairs.

The 90-year-old building had been sitting empty and unheated for a couple of years and was condemned as unsafe by the City Council. The interior has been trashed.

The council in late 2009 ordered the owners to either make repairs or have the building torn down. However, the former congregation said it could not afford repairs and offered to make a gift of the property to the city. The council did not accept the offer.

The status of the church was reported by Peterson to the Willmar City Council's Community Development Committee this week.

In other business, Peterson reported the Federal Aviation Administration on Jan. 4 filed the city's appeal of a state agency's determination that the old airport terminal and site are eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

The appeal will be considered by the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The keeper has 45 days to respond and a decision on the appeal is due by Feb. 18, according to Peterson.

The disagreement between the city and the State Historic Preservation Office over the state's determination that the old terminal is eligible for historic designation is delaying the FAA's release of the old airport to the city for industrial development purposes.

Peterson also reported to the council that a cursory windshield survey of the city yielded a tally of 99 vacant and unoccupied homes. The list includes a number that are for sale. The committee asked Peterson to compile the list.

The committee's discussion will be reported to the City Council at the 7 p.m. meeting today in the Municipal Utilities Building chambers.

The council will consider authorizing hospital revenue notes for the Rice Care Center project and will consider authorizing municipal utility revenue bonds for the wind turbine project.

The council will receive comments from the public during the open forum, and will also receive reports from the Public Works/Safety Committee, Labor Relations Committee and Finance Committee.

Also, the council will reschedule the Feb. 21 council meeting during the Presidents' Day observance to Feb. 22.

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