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Church demolition begins today in Willmar

A backhoe to be used in demolition is moved in Friday alongside the Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios Church in Willmar where the razing of the building will begin today. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Demolition begins today rather than Sunday of the condemned Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios Church at the corner of Seventh Street and Highway 12/Litchfield Avenue Southwest in Willmar.

Traffic next to the church will be diverted today and Sunday during the demolition process. The eastbound lanes of Litchfield Avenue will be closed to traffic. Traffic will be diverted to the westbound lanes, one lane in each direction. Message boards, signing and traffic delineators will direct motorists through the work zone, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

"The reason we're starting (today) is the weather is cooperating and we don't want to run into Sunday night and not be done with it,'' said Dennis Larson, president of MAAC Inc. of Montevideo, the demolition contractor. "We're taking every precaution possible to get it down and be able to open the highway up on Sunday night.''

The National Weather Service is predicting a party sunny sky today with the high near 32, and mostly sunny Sunday with the high near 35.

Today's start time depends on how much hazardous material Larson's crew removed on Friday. Larson's company already removed the asbestos, but had to first clean out other hazardous materials such as paint, bulbs and mercury switches and also remove items such as carpet and pews that are not building components.

Larson said those materials will be taken to a solid waste landfill. The brick and building materials will be taken to a demolition landfill, he said.

Larson guessed the backhoe won't hit the church until sometime around noon today. The plan is to remove the westerly portion of the building first and knock down the chimneys on the south side of the building. Work on taking down the bell tower, which is the most critical part of the project, will probably begin between 9 and 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Larson said demolition should be completed by Sunday evening.

"Our goal is to get it on the ground so we can start loading out on Monday,'' he said. "We'll be there all week hauling out and bringing clean fill back in. The footprint of the building will be gravel.''

Larson said he likes taking on challenges and when everybody comes together to make something happen.

"So many times one party works against another party and it just gets difficult,'' Larson said. "But in this case, MnDOT, the city and utilities worked together to get the one goal and that's to get rid of an eyesore and a hazard.''

The 90-year-old building is being torn down because it was condemned as unsafe by the Willmar City Council. The building served First Covenant Church from 1921 to 1979 and served as a law office from about 1980 to 1999.

In 2001, it served Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios for a number of years until the congregation was no longer able to make necessary repairs.

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