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City Requests Updated Building Permit Application

By Staff | May 26, 2011

With concerns that construction at the corner of 10th and Broadway was not being built according to submitted plans, Emmetsburg City Council discussed whether or not to revoke the building permit. A motion for an updated plan was called for at the Monday, May 23, meeting.

The building permit for an emergency fire escape and awning, using green steel roofing, was approved by the council in April 2009. The area of construction is in the fire zone.

Minutes from that 2009 meeting stated that Dr. David Kundel was requesting to place an awning type structure with a flat roof that would serve as a fire escape.

Last Monday night, City Administrator John Bird gave a report from building inspector Frank Kliegl.

“He (Kliegl) has checked into the fire escape/catwalk. It has been constructed without a railing. The railing is now being constructed. It is apparently going to be placed above the awning that has been constructed and is going to rest on the awning,” said Bird. “I specifically asked if the posts that were placed in the sidewalk were going to support the fire escape and they are. The underside of the awning is not completely covered in metal yet, and the posts were not. Those were some of the conditions because it is in the fire district.”

Attorney Todd Buchanan spoke on behalf of Dr. Kundel.

“The whole thing was a big misunderstanding between Dr. Kundel’s contractor, Rick Bisenius, and the city. As John Bird explained, I think all of the city’s concerns have been addressed but have not been finished at this time,” said Buchanan. “As John (Bird) mentioned, I think the big concern was the fire escape. That’s probably the big reason why the city has supported this project,” said Buchanan. “The building is a fire hazard without that fire escape. I know the city had some reluctance to grant the permit for the awning. I have been assured the catwalk will be done in 30 days.”

Buchanan requested that the city give Dr. Kundel and the contractor 30 days to get the job completed to the city’s satisfaction. He pointed out that the railing on the catwalk was not part of the original plan, but he indicated that Bisenius and Kliegl thought the catwalk needed a railing since it is 15 feet up in the air.

Councilman Corey Gramowski questioned if the original building permit had been changed.

“There has only been one building permit and that was issued in 2009,” said City Attorney Brian Thul.

“I think the biggest topic here really is on that permit. It said fire escape/awning, but it really didn’t show an awning. It had a roof and was supposed to have a one-inch slope per foot. He built an awning and that wasn’t on the permit we approved,” said Gramowski.

Buchanan explained, “I think Frank (Kliegl) and Rick (Bisenius) had extensive discussions about those changes to the plans. One of the things that Rick recognized, if you’re gong to try to use the awning as a fire escape in the winter time, I don’t care if it’s going to be a one inch slope, that is going to be slicker than heck… I think that’s why the plans changed to going with a catwalk fire escape… It was an improvement over what the proposal was, just for the fact that they’ve gone to something that is specifically designed to be a fire escape rather than trying to solve the problem with a canopy that was never intended to be a fire escape in the first place,” said Buchanan.

Councilman Steve Finer asked when the building permit expired.

Attorney Thul said the permit had actually lapsed a year after it was issued and he pointed out that something needed to happen legally for construction to continue on the project.

“I’ve had discussions with the mayor and council on whether there should be a fine,” Thul said. “The city has the ability to issue a municipal infraction.”

Councilman Campbell questioned if the original building permit allowed for construction on the west side. The City Administrator said the permit was for construction on the south side.

“Our biggest deal was putting the posts in the sidewalk,” said Gramowski. “It was going to be a fire escape… That’s the only reason we allowed it If they changed the plans why didn’t they apply for a new building permit?”

Buchanan added, “There’s a reason why we have a permitting process and we have plans produced. Nobody wants to set a precedent that you can freely throw away the plans and go and do something else.”

“I agree with Corey,” said Bird. “Not being a member of the council, I don’t know that those posts would have ever been approved with placement in the center of the public sidewalk for any reason other than to support a fire escape.”

“I would like to see an updated plan on how this is going to be attached,” said Finer. “He can’t install (the catwalk) now until we give him a permit. At that time we can look at giving him a permit and extending it. That’s my opinion.”

Buchanan questioned if the city council would need to approve a new/amended building permit, noting it would cause a delay in completing construction. The City Administrator said it should come back to the council, with the next meeting set for June 13.

“This all could have been taken care of six months ago if he had filed a new permit or given us an update,” said Gramowski.

“I haven’t talked with Dr. Kundel, but I’m guessing he wishes he’d never seen this place,” said Buchanan. “Unfortunately what that speaks to the city of Emmetsburg is, that’s another building that will be torn down… If you discourage people from putting money into downtown buildings you’re going to have a wreck on your hands.”

“I’d like to address this,” said “Dr. Kundel and I are good friends. I talked to him when he purchased that (building). I think that’s a far cry from reality and I’m a little bit hurt by that insinuation,” said Community Developer Steve Heldt, addressing Buchanan. “I’m going to talk to Dr. Kundel this evening and have my own discussion about this.”

The council voted that a new permit must be submitted to the City by June 13, 2011 at that time the City Council will review the newly submitted permit application.