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City Council Proceeds With Condemnations

By Staff | Jul 30, 2009

Emmetsburg City Council voted to proceed with two condemnation procedures to remove unsafe buildings. One building is located at 1808 Madison, the other is located at 917 Broadway.

Owners of both properties attended the public hearings Monday, held during Emmetsburg City Council’s meeting.

William McGrauth owns the property at 1808 Madison. McGrauth’s son, Keith, told the council that they hoped to renovate the building to make it suitable as a rental property.

“It will take some time and I’ll be the one doing the work,” said Keith McGrauth. “There is a lot of work to be done.”

Building inspector Frank Kliegl said the process was initiated to seal up the building to prevent animals from going in and out.

Council representative Corey Gramowski said he looked at the property and he believes it will take a lot of money to fix it.

“I’ll do the roof first, then work on the inside,” said Keith McGrauth.

“I came to tonight’s meeting to give you an extension,” said Council representative Brian Campbell, “but I hate to see you put a bunch of money in it and we could be in the same circumstance next spring.”

“The property is probably worth more as an empty lot,” said Council representative Pat Degen.

City Administrator John Bird questioned if the interior has been exposed to the weather. He noted there may be more damage than meets the eye.

“We’re at the point that it would need to be torn down,” said Campbell.

“I’d hate to see them put a bunch of money in it and still not have it in livable condition,” said Council representative Steve Finer.

“It’s not fair to the neighbors,” added Campbell.

“I wasn’t going to put money into it, that’s why I had Frank (Kliegl) come down,” said Keith McGrauth. “I’d put money into it if I had to, but is it worth it? If I tear in down we can start all over.”

McGrauth noted there is a full basement under the house. Council members said an open basement would have to be fenced to protect the public.

Council members voted to condemn the building. The McGrauths have 90 days to remove the building.

The other building in question is at 917 Broadway, most commonly known as the old Wards building. Council representatives had received complaints of varmints running in and out of the building, the roof has caved in, and there are concerns about a common stairway.

C.J. Furman, owner, said he got involved when he purchased the building at a tax sale in June 2000. He noted that it is a three-year process to even inspect the property, and referred to the site as a “pig in a poke.” Furman was hoping to get the principle back out of the deal.

“I don’t have the assets to tackle the project, to clean it up” Furman told the council. “You guys do have the resources.”

“We don’t have the resources. We have public money,” said City Administrator John Bird. “We don’t use public money to clean up private property. Do you realize the cost to clean it up would be charged to you?”

Sonia Borkowski owns the building adjacent to the old Wards building and the two buildings share a common wall and a common stairway.

“I am getting damage to my building and I’m starting to see some major issues,” said Borkowski. “Up to now, I haven’t made a big issue of the damage.”

She was referring to water damage to her building when it rains. She also noted, if the building would be torn down the north wall of her building would be exposed and the common stairway would also be exposed.

Mayor John Schad asked Furman if he had an alternative. Furman told the council that he brought the building to the city’s attention in 2003. He noted that the building had been in a state of disrepair dating back to when the Meyer family had closed the Wards store.

“I was in the building eight years ago and I would not go in that building today,” said Bird. “I would hate to have our firemen have to go to a fire in an adjacent building.

“I’m concerned about adjacent property owners,” said Finer. “It’s a nuisance. We need to proceed with condemnation.

“I’m concerned about the neighbors,” said Furman. “That’s why I brought it up in 2003 and that’s why I contacted Tim McCain. It needs to be taken care of.

Emmetsburg City Council voted to proceed with condemnation and gave the owner 30 days to comply.

Furman commented during the meeting, “if it came to a civil thing, I’d have to vigorously defend myself.”