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Drug arrests alert city to hazardous building

A sign posted on the former Kmart building notes the hazardous conditions inside. (Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — An arrest made last month at the former KMart building has alerted city employees to the deteriorating condition of the property.

The Buffalo Ridge Task Force and Worthington Police Department arrested two individuals at the building, located at 1635 Oxford St, on June 20. City of Worthington employees subsequently sent a letter to the building’s owner, Northland Mall Realty, Littleneck, N.Y., informing it that due to hazardous conditions, it has 30 days to present a written plan of action for the building to Worthington Community Development.

Two arrested on drug charges

Rachel Lynn Flora and Duane Joseph Gleason, each of Worthington, were both arrested on two charges of drug possession.

According to the report filed by the Worthington Police Department, the arrest started with a conversation between a Buffalo Ridge Task Force agent and Flora near the Northland Mall.

“They stopped to speak with the people back there and based on the interaction, it was evident to the agent that they were under the influence of a controlled substance and that led to where we are today,” Buffalo Ridge Task Force Commander Troy Appel said.

The report stated that both Gleason and Flora appeared nervous, and officers informed Flora that an officer with a drug detection K-9 had been contacted to search the red Chevy Cavalier Flora had allegedly driven to the Kmart building.

The K-9 alerted officers to the presence of a controlled substance, and agents found a zip-style baggie containing a crystalline substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine and weighed approximately 4.3 grams including packaging.

Flora was arrested and transported to the Prairie Justice Center.

Later that day, a search warrant was issued for the Kmart building, the Northland Mall maintenance shop and the Cavalier.

Agents found a cigarette pack inside a ceramic duck in the former KMart auto shop that contained a zip-style baggie with a crystal substance that tested field positive for methamphetamine and weighed approximately 2.6 grams.

Agents also found a zip- style baggie on the floor of the former break room, as well as a broken glass pipe that field-tested positive for methamphetamine in the former human resources room.

While walking through the Northland Mall, agents found Gleason hiding in a loft in the former Sterling Drug store. Gleason was arrested and transported to Prairie Justice Center.

Flora later told agents, according to the report, that she had purchased the methamphetamine found in the Cavalier on June 19 for $400, and that she smoked once in the former Kmart building from the quantity she bought.

Flora and Gleason each posted bail of $1,000 on June 26.

Order to abate issued

After the June 20 arrest, police agents informed the city of Worthington about the condition of the Kmart building.

On June 24, the city sent a letter to Northland Mall Realty informing them that there were several violations of building electric and fire codes observed by city officials.

According to the letter, water had accumulated on the floor as a result of roofing failure and leakage. Lack of ventilation and high levels of humidity caused mold to grow in many areas. Electric fixtures and wiring appeared to be in violation of electric code requirements. The fire sprinkler and alarm notification system were inoperable, proper lighting and emergency lighting not provided, and the HVAC systems non-functional. The building was also being used for storage purposes in areas that were not approved by the city of Worthington.

“It’s not very nice in there,” said Armand Eshleman, Worthington building official. “It smells really bad, and who knows what else is in there as far as unhealthiness.”

The letter informed Northland Mall Reality that due to the hazardous conditions and violations, it is ordered under Minnesota state statutes to “abate the nuisance by repair, rehabilitation, demolition or removal.”

“The owner has the option to either repair or demolish the building and the owner has the opportunity to decide which one he’ll take,” said Brad Chapulis, director of community and economic development. “If it gets to the point of getting a court order, then we as a city will have to decide which we’ll decide to do, but we aren’t to that point nor have we started to explore those options.”

If a written plan of action is not presented to community development staff within 30 days, the matter will be forwarded to the Worthington attorney and city council for action.

“This letter is the first step in the process that we’ll have to go through in order to address the issue,” Chapulis said. “If we don’t receive a satisfactory response, we’ll take the situation to the council, where we will ask the council to declare it a public nuisance. At that point, they are on legal notice, and if action isn’t taken within a period of time, we would go to the court to see action.”

Chapulis added that while there have been phone conversations with the owner, as of Tuesday, a formal response has yet to be received.

“We hope we’ll receive one, but we’re planning to move forward if there is not a satisfactory response,” he said.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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