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Council declares fire-damaged house unsafe

The Willmar City Council has declared a fire-damaged house at 201 Havana St. N.E. to be a dangerous structure and will pursue repair or demolition of the structure. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- The owner of a fire-damaged house has 30 days to either repair or remove the structure at 201 Havana St. N.E. in Willmar. The City Council this week declared the house an unsafe structure.

Bruce Peterson, planning and development director, said the city's next step after the council made its declaration is to notify the owner, Maria Pedraza, that the house must either be repaired or removed.

Pedraza's last known address is 201 Havana St. N.E. Peterson said the city building inspector has had a conversation with Pedraza's son who lives in Wabasso.

The house suffered substantial damage in a fire on Feb. 28, 2011. Fire officials suspected the cause was arson.

If the house is not repaired or removed, the city can go to court and obtain an order that gives the city the authority to demolish the house and transfer title to the city, said Peterson.

However, Peterson said he's exploring options other than demolition because the cost would exceed the cost of the lot. Peterson said the city received two price quotes from contractors of a little over $18,000 and $22,000 to remove the structure.

"The council wanted to know that we'd at least considered some options going into this thing,'' he said in an interview. "They don't want to be sitting with a lot that's worth $10,000 to $12000 or whatever it's worth - I don't even know - and we've got $18,000 into it.''

Peterson said there is nothing wrong with the lot. Among the options are possibly talking to Habitat for Humanity, a neighbor and a contractor about removing the structure in exchange for the lot.

"We'd be willing to look at some different options so we're trying to do whatever we can to keep the financial exposure to the city at a minimum,'' he said.

The council's action was recommended by the Community Development Committee.

In other business, the council voted to purchase two lots located on the west side of Eighth Street Northeast, just east of the Eagles Landing Addition. The lots will be purchased with money from the storm water fund.

The two lots are not in the city limits at this time, but would be important to any future annexation and providing utility services in that area, council member Jim Dokken said during the Community Development Committee report.

He said wetlands cover major portions of the two lots, but there is room to run a sanitary sewer line through the property to serve Eighth Street Northeast as well as provide space for storm water retention.

With some Eighth Street residents who live just outside the city limits interested in annexation, city staff believes it's prudent to proceed with acquiring the lots. Both are tax forfeited and could be had for $2,270.

Council members Denis Anderson and Bruce DeBlieck, who represent Ward 1 where the lots are located, asked staff to look into the possibility of having a park at the property.

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