Continuing Concerns Over Downtown Building
Continuing concerns over the condition of the former Wards building at 917 Broadway came back to Emmetsburg City Council last Monday.
“I was here with C.J. Furman (owner of the former Wards building) about a year ago,” Sonia Borkowski told the council. “What is happening with condemning or demolition of the building? Last October, information was sent to Ames Environmental Inc. for an estimate for demolition of the building.”
Sonia Borkowski, owner of the adjoining building, came before the City Council. She owns Sol Salon at 919 Broadway.
City Administrator John Bord answered her question, “Plans and specs for taking down the building have been sent to the City Attorney.”
He read an e-mail from the City Attorney who is on vacation: “I wanted to comment that the City has no duty on the Ward building and the salon owner may be better served to go directly after C.J. Furman for relief as his property is the problem, not the City. Meanwhile, we are still analyzing the cost of abatement and still have the right to not do anything depending on the political vote of the council.”
“The City has no obligation to do anything with that building,” reiterated Bird. “It’s not ours.”
There was a question of whether or not the building had been condemned.
“If we do something, we have to go through the condemnation process,” Bird explained. “The City Attorney has not taken that step yet. The council will have to say whether or not the building should come down.”
Bird asked the Borkowskis if they had been in contact with C.J. Furman.
“No. He made it perfectly clear that he wasn’t going to do anything,” said Sonia.
Bird pointed out that Furman was at the most recent tax auction in Palo Alto County and was buying more property.
“Now do you understand, now it’s a civil matter between you and C.J.?” Bird asked.
“No, I did not,” Sonia answered.
“The city has not yet got estimates on how much it would cost to demolish the building,” said Bird.
Sonia Borkowski pressed the City Council for a deadline to get something done.
“I think it would be unwise if you left here assuming that the City is going to do something,” Bird said. “If the bids come back at $150,000, the council may say we can’t afford that.”
Councilman Brian Campbell noted that coming up with the money and getting it into the budget will be a time consuming process.
Sonia Borkowski presented photos she had taken last week of the inside of her salon, the water damage that has occurred, and the condition of the former Wards building, and what is going on between. There was a shared stairway between the two buildings and a common wall. The roof has collapsed, the hallway roof has holes in it and the main floor has fallen to the basement. Borkowski reported mold and mildew issues.
“When his north wall comes down, the whole back of my building is exposed,” she told the council. “The building needs to go. And as soon as that building comes down, I need walls to go up within hours.
“At this point, it’s (rain) starting to come in and destroy everything I’ve put my heat and money into. I don’t want to get to the point where I can’t even have a business because of mold issues,
“Not only has the roof collapsed, but the first floor has collapsed,” Jerry Holland told the council. “You don’t have a frame there to hold the front of the building. At some point it’s going to either go inward or to the front on the street. Then you’ve got a liability problem.”
“I’m coming to you to let you know where I’m at,” Borkowski told the council. “I wasn’t sure where you were at. We were under the assumption that it (the building) had been condemned.”
“There are people here who are very concerned about your problem,” Mayor Schad said. “This is a horrible thing.”
“I just don’t want you to leave her thinking that something is definitely going to be done by the city,” Bird said. “You need to understand it’s a civil matter at this point. If you’re at that point and find yourself an attorney, you need to take him (Furman) on.”
“I have contacted an attorney and he thought the first thing would be to go against you guys (City Council) because you are not upholding that you are supposed to be doing.”
Matt Borkowski again pointed out they thought the building had been condemned.
Councilman Pat Degen had concerns about “spending that kind of money to clean up someone else’s screwup. We would have to bail him out with your tax dollars.”
Councilman Steve Finer noted, “If we would condemn the building, that doesn’t mean it’s the city’s building. That means it’s unsafe.”
Mayor Schad again noted that the building has not been condemned. “We’re waiting on our attorney to give us an opinion on how much it’s going to cost. All we’ve done is authorize him (City Attorney) to investigate that, but we should know really soon.”
Councilman Brian Campbell noted that the council informed Mr. Furman that his building needed to be removed. Furman had told the council that he did not have the finances to do that.
Sonia Borkowski told the council, “My business is growing after eight years and I would like to do some more work in my building. Going to an attorney was not something I wanted to do if the city would help me out in some form. So that’s why I am here tonight. Damage to the building is happening rapidly in the last five to six months and I cannot wait another month, six months or a year. I need to take action to save my building.”
Councilman Campbell noted, “We could go in and clean it up, then attach the cost to his (Furman’s) taxes, but he’s not going to pay those anyhow.”
City Administrator Bird advised Sonia Borkowski to have her attorney call City Attorney Brian Thul and ask him about a timeline. He also advised her to inform her attorney that Mr. Furman was at the last tax sale and buying property.
When questions arose about Furman not paying taxes on the building, the City Administrator pointed out that the building could go back to the county; taxes iare a county issue.
With no immediate resolution in sight, discussion on the property at 917 Broadway came to an end.