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Kmart building to be assessed

WORTHINGTON — On a 4-1 vote, the city council agreed to immediately execute a contract with Wenzel Engineering to assess the former Kmart building at the Northland Mall.

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During its regular meeting Monday night, the council approved $19,722 to Wenzel Engineering, Bloomington, to provide cost assessments and recommendations on the decision to repair or demolish the structure.

Council member Ron Wood voted against.

Last August, the council declared the former Kmart building as hazardous and in October, received a judgment from the courts to enter the property and properly assess the state of repair and disrepair of the building.

“Based on the parameters of the court order, as well as the concerns we have regarding the Kmart building’s structural dependence or independence with the adjoining mall, staff sought request for proposals for structural engineering firms to help with the structural assessment of the former Kmart building,” Director of Community and Economic Development Brad Chapulis told the council.

The city received four proposals, with Wenzel Engineering being the lowest.

“It should be noted that staff has kept mall ownership apprised of the intent and the action we are intending to take since the court order,” Chapulis said. “While there has been communication, the mall ownership has failed to present a legitimate abatement plan for the city’s consideration.”

Chapulis said it is possible to recover the city’s costs. 

“The local unit of government — in this case the city — can obtain a judgment against the owner of the real estate or place a lien on the real estate to recover costs that we encounter,” Chapulis said.

While Wenzel was awarded the contract, the submitted proposal also included work with Adkins Association, Inc. and Dolejs Associates.

“The firms we made initial contact with are all structural engineering firms,” said Chapulis. “Our proposal has to go a little bit further in regards to the roofing and HVAC system — things of that nature. There was a need for all of those firms to go out and solicit other firms to join them on the project.”

One of the challenges, Chapulis said, is the architectural plans for the former Kmart building can’t be located.

“We’ve gone to the original architect as well as the original firm that built the facility and both did not have the plans on their records,” Chapulis said.

Council member Rod Sankey asked if there was any time frame for the owner to respond.

“Our goal is to have the building abated, whether that be by repair or by demolition,” said Chapulis. “He’s had his chance.”

Until the time the company begins work, the owner has the opportunity to make the necessary improvements.

“If we got to that point, staff would recommend council would obtain financial security to show the seriousness of moving forward,” Chapulis said. “I think a goodwill gesture or a handshake is not going to be enough.”

Wood said he was in favor of executing the contract on Feb. 1 —which was one of the options presented.

But all agreed something needed to be done Monday.

“I think we would be remiss if we don’t come out of here with an action,” Mayor Alan Oberloh said.

“I’m not sure what we gain by not doing this right now,” council member Diane Graber said.

“I was hoping we could do the Feb. 1 one so we could put the pressure on him,” council member Scott Nelson said.

“We’ve been putting pressure on him for the last year and a half,” Graber said.

In other business, the council approved $45,000 to the Worthington Area YMCA to manage the city’s summer youth recreation programs.

Wood was elected Mayor Pro-Tem. He received four votes and council member Mike Kuhle received one vote.

Oberloh began the meeting by welcoming Andy Johnson as the honorary council member.

Council also recognized members Nelson and Graber, who were celebrating birthdays Monday.