Fetterly Construction stabilizes the downtown building that was once the Tamarack Cafe before the process to dismantle it begins. The building was expected to start coming down this week.
Fetterly Construction stabilizes the downtown building that was once the Tamarack Cafe before the process to dismantle it begins. The building was expected to start coming down this week.
Time was of the essence as the Spring Valley City Council met for an emergency meeting on Monday, Feb. 20, to address the recent partial collapse of the former Tamarack Cafe building on Broadway Avenue.

The collapse, which happened on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 19, forced the evacuation of tenants in the neighboring Commercial House Apartments.

“This isn’t the kind of special meeting we like to have,” Mayor Jim Struzyk commented as the meeting got underway.

On Monday, maintenance superintendent Chad Hindt met with Jay Kruger from Construction Management Services to inspect the building.

In his report to the city Kruger stated, “The building is made up of multiple layers of brick. The brick layers are the only bearing in the building. The floor joist systems in both levels are what ties the building together and keep it stable. Since the side of the building and the floor systems have collapsed, there is no stability left to the building. It is my opinion that the building shall be taken down immediately.”

Unfortunately, the collapse was seemingly inevitable after a portion of the exterior wall collapsed near the rear of the building in July 2015. The area was fenced off by the city to keep people at a safe distance, but no work was done by then owner Jeff Coop or current owner Eugene Poncelet to fix the damage.

Poncelet is behind on the taxes for the building and offered to donate the building to the city last year, though due to the high costs to fix or demolish the building, the city did not accept the offer.

Because of safety issues the city now finds itself taking on the task of having the building demolished.

Joe O’ Connell, of O’Connell Excavating, prepared an estimate for the cleanup and disposal of the building materials, as well as sealing off the sewer and water connections and filling in the basement. The total estimate was $50,000.

“It might not be near that, we don’t know on the asbestos check yet,” O’ Connell said of the cost. “This is the worst case scenario.”

City administrator Deb Zimmer, informed the council she had been in contact with building owner Poncelet, of Pine Island, and asked the council to delay the cleanup for at least two weeks in order to give Poncelet a chance to handle the cleanup on his own.

“Let’s try to work with Eugene to try to get him to cover some costs. He did tell me he has no insurance and he doesn’t have the money to pay for this,” Zimmer revealed.

Terry Fetterly, of TD Fetterly Building Company, then gave the council his estimate for shoring up the neighboring buildings and demolishing the Tamarack building, which is $48,500.

Fetterly reported he would be able to start immediately on Tuesday, Feb. 21, though he did warn the group it could take up to a week to shore up the surrounding buildings and demo the offending building.

Unfortunately, this means the residents of the Commercial House Apartments will be displaced for the duration of that time as Minnesota Energy had to shut off service to the apartment building due to the instability of the Tamarack building.

When asked about his concerns, Jeff Allman, owner of the Commercial House, said, “I have the same problem anyone else has, I have to not freeze and I have to not upset the tenants enough to have them move out. We’re doing what we can; so far nobody is screaming. We told them one night for sure...so a week is different than a day.”

According to Allman, there are 11 tenants in his apartments and of those, nine are staying in the local hotel.

The city paid for the first night of lodging, but council discussed how it would proceed with future costs.

While Allman does have insurance, which would normally cover the cost, he explained, “This is a little messier, because Jeff Coop and then Eugene Poncelet, bought it, knew it was uninsured, knew it was unacceptable and left it for two years. He’s got a little more responsibility then he might otherwise have; this didn’t just happen out of the blue.”

Emergency management director John Dols will be contacting the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to see if they would be able to help with the lodging costs for the tenants.

Council member Todd Jones questioned whether the city should realistically expect Poncelet to come up with the funds for the cleanup and removal.

“He said he would like to work out something. I would like to talk with him a little more in depth,” Zimmer shared. “He is going to be gone until the middle of next week, but he did indicate he was going to try to work something out with us.”

Questions were also raised about who would pay for the work that will have to be done on the neighboring buildings which currently share walls with the Tamarack building.

It was agreed the first step should be taking the building down to alleviate the danger and then the council will discuss the remaining issues.

“He’s taken my calls; he is trying to do the right thing,” Allman said of Poncelet. “It may exceed his resources, but he is trying to do the right thing.”

A motion was approved to accept Fetterly’s estimate to demolish the building with work beginning immediately. The council will give Poncelet approximately two weeks to figure out what he wants to do for the removal and clean up.

“By next Monday (Feb. 27), hopefully I’ll have some more information about our possible resources and ways to take care of this,” Zimmer concluded.