YM County reaffirms demo of Clarkfield school except gym

GRANITE FALLS -- Members of the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners expressed their frustrations as they moved forward with a costly project to remove the former Clarkfield school buildings.

Submitted Yellow Medicine County officials recently toured the Clarkfield school buildings. The county initiated legal action that expedited the transfer of the property to the state through tax forfeiture. All the same, it may be too late to save some of the larger classroom structures.
Submitted Conditions in the former Clarkfield school buildings have deteriorated significantly since this photo was taken three years ago. The county is moving to demolish the buildings before roofs collapse and make it impossible to separately remove asbestos. If unable to do so, all of the materials would need to be placed in a hazardous waste landfill at great cost.

GRANITE FALLS - Members of the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners expressed their frustrations as they moved forward with a costly project to remove the former Clarkfield school buildings.

At their meeting Tuesday, the commissioners unanimously agreed to contract with the Institute for Environmental Assessment of Marshall to complete a new analysis of asbestos in the buildings, as well as to oversee the removal process. The contract could add $40,000 to $45,000 to the $12,000 paid for a recent asbestos assessment.

The assessment determined that asbestos removal could cost $352,500.

Commissioner Gary Johnson urged the second analysis by the company in hopes it will find there is significantly less asbestos in the structures. Johnson said that the company's analysis of an elementary school wing was conducted in an older portion of the building without realization that about one-half of the wing was of newer construction. Testing in the newer structure by a county employee certified in asbestos testing found no evidence of asbestos in that portion of the wing.

Johnson said the elementary wing's estimated asbestos removal costs are in the six figures; he's hopeful that a new analysis will reduce the total in this and other areas of the buildings.


There is an urgency to removing the buildings, Johnson said. A consultant warned him that the roofs are leaking and in some areas starting to collapse. If they fall in, it would be impossible to remove the asbestos separately from the other materials. In that case, all of the materials would have to be placed in a hazardous waste landfill at great cost.

On a 4-1 vote, the commissioners also approved going ahead with a $499,100 bid by Frattalone Companies Inc., of Inver Grove Heights, to remove all of the school buildings with the exception of the west gymnasium and its locker rooms. The motion calls for conveying ownership of the gym and the vacant property to the city of Clarkfield.

The city intends to sell the gymnasium to Kendra Lindblad of Dawson, owner of the Redemption Basketball Academy. It can sell the property to Lindblad without placing it for sale at public auction, according to Janel Timm, director of property and public services for the county. She said a state statute aimed at removing blights provides the authority to do so.

The former school property is tax-forfeited and consequently owned by the state, but managed by the county. Two brothers from Iceland had purchased the school property and lived there, but left abruptly in December 2014. They had purchased the properties from a third party, who had initially purchased the vacant schools from the Yellow Medicine East School District.

That sale was among the frustrations voiced by the commissioners.

"When they decided to sell that building, that's where the taxpayers took it," said Johnson in response to concerns by Commissioner John Berends. "There's a third party that should be paying in this. That's the bottom line."

Berends cast the lone vote against the motion to move ahead. He expressed concerns about transferring the gym to a private owner, rather than for public use and ownership by the city of Clarkfield as was originally proposed. A new owner will face the costs of replacing its roof and possibly repairing a wall.

He said there is the possibility that a private owner could eventually allow the property to be tax-forfeited. By agreeing to save the gym, the county is rejecting a lower-cost bid of $474,860 by Landwehr Construction of St. Cloud for demolition of all the buildings.


"(We're) doing it for more money to potentially be in the same problem we are right now," Berends said.

Johnson's first motion to move ahead failed to get a second after three calls by board Chairman Greg Renneke.

After discussion, Johnson made the motion for a second time. This time, Commissioner Ron Antony made the second to put it up for a vote. He urged support for moving ahead due to the fact that the city of Clarkfield has agreed to pay for one-half of all the costs, as well as accept ownership of the property.

"My whole motivation is we have a partner and we need to take advantage of having a partner," Antony said. The difference between sharing the costs with a partner or doing it alone could be that of writing a $500,000 or a $1 million check, he said.

Antony, of Canby, said he understood the concerns voiced by Berends, as well as the frustrations.

"From the west end, it stings even more because it is an east-end school district that laid this in our laps," he said.

The county has until Aug. 15 to award the demolition contract to Frattalone. County Administrator Angie Steinbach reported that the company had agreed to allow for a 45-day extension, as the bid had been opened earlier this month.

The commissioners are hoping to see the new estimated costs to remove asbestos prior to awarding the demolition bid.


The costs for asbestos removal and demolition are being split equally by the county (pop. 10,400) and the city of Clarkfield (pop. 863) as part of an earlier agreement.

The county will be able to tap reserve funds for its share of costs, according to Steinbach.

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