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YM County, Clarkfield to decide fate of school buildings

GRANITE FALLS--The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners is looking for community input as the fate of the former Clarkfield school buildings is decided.

Submitted Water damage and mold are prevalent in the former Clarkfield school buildings, with the worst damage, as shown here, found in the buildings holding classrooms. One county official likened the scene in some areas to a "war zone."
Submitted Water damage and mold are prevalent in the former Clarkfield school buildings, with the worst damage, as shown here, found in the buildings holding classrooms. One county official likened the scene in some areas to a "war zone."

GRANITE FALLS-The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners is looking for community input as the fate of the former Clarkfield school buildings is decided.

The commissioners agreed at their meeting Tuesday to appoint a joint task force with the city of Clarkfield and its Economic Development Agency to determine what to do. Some of the buildings appear to be salvageable, but the commissioners believe the majority of the elementary and junior and high school classroom areas will need to be razed.

"I don't think there is a lot of hope,'' said County Board member Gary Johnson, who represents the community. "I really don't.''

His comments came as board members viewed photos from a tour that Johnson and county staff recently took inside the vacant buildings.

The buildings and property were recently forfeited to the state for taxes after the county initiated legal action to speed up the transfer. The property otherwise would have not been transferred to the state for taxes until 2018.

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The buildings had been owned by Einar and Agust Agustsson of Iceland. They had purchased the complex of buildings from a third party for approximately $70,000. They lived in them with their families while operating a company called Janulus. The company produced portable wind generators.

The brothers returned to Iceland about two years ago. The buildings have not had electric service or heat, and the roofs are in poor condition on the main structures holding the classrooms.

There is extensive water damage and mold in the classroom buildings. Interior ceilings have crumbled, floor tiles have curled, and a fine coating of dust or mold is prevalent.

"It looks like pictures on TV of a war zone, like it got bombed,'' said Janel Timm, property and public services director for Yellow Medicine County, of some of the areas in the complex.

There are also concerns about asbestos in the building, according to Larry Stoks, county maintenance foreman. The basements are flooded, so it has not been possible to examine asbestos issues related to the primary boilers.

There are buildings in the complex that are in relatively good shape and could be converted for commercial uses, however. A building holding a former wood shop is in good shape. It has three-phase electric service, and there is already a party interested in it for commercial use, according to information presented at the meeting Tuesday.

There is also a building with its own heat and utility service that could be remodeled for use, such as a daycare center. A former gymnasium on the site could also be converted for use as a storage building.

The Clarkfield Economic Development Agency is interested in examining whether it is possible to convert some of these structures for continued use, EDA member Adam Isaac told the commissioners.

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Along with deciding to appoint a task force, the commissioners also agreed to donate playground equipment on the site to the city of Clarkfield.

The Clarkfield City Council will be discussing the county's proposal for a joint task force at its upcoming meeting, according to Becca Schrupp, city administrator. The commissioners said they would like to encourage as much community involvement as possible as they decide what to do with the buildings.

Related Topics: GRANITE FALLSCLARKFIELD
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