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House abandoned due to bats

The Wadena County Board approved Zoning Administrator Deana Skov's original recommendation to demolish an unoccupied home in Meadow Township that was abandoned due to an infestation of bats.

Skov asked for permission in December to hire a contractor for a $3,450 quote plus landfill costs, but the board asked her to look into using Sentence to Serve labor and the county highway department to do the demolition.

These options proved more costly for Skov's department and might have posed health risks to workers demolishing the building by hand rather than with a backhoe and loader, she said.

Highway Engineer Joel Ulring gave her rates of $95 a day for a worker and dump truck, $105 per hour for a worker and loader, and $200 per load to haul the debris to the demolition landfill.

The STS crew leader said he thought it would take a minimum of four days to do the work by hand, she said.

"Roughly, that's going to come out to about $6,400," Skov said.

And that amount does not include the number of loads that will be hauled because she doesn't know exactly how many will be needed, she said.

Karen Nelson, the county's Public Health director, warned Skov that exposure to bat guano can be dangerous when inhaled. She said workers removing debris by hand need to wear a minimum of an N95 mask, which takes out about 95 percent of the contaminants in the air, and change and wash their clothes after working each day. Nelson recommended backhoe workers also wear at least the N95 mask.

"So there are some health risks involved with that also," Skov said.

Another option Skov looked into was having a local fire department use the home for a practice burn. The cost would be a minimum of $1,300 plus the cost of clean up and hauling the ash to a lined landfill. She estimated these costs would be in excess of the $3,450 quote.

"I'm kind of back to where I was before," Skov said.

She can use shore land grant money to pay for the project, she said. The property is located along the Red Eye River. A mechanic's lien will be applied to the property for the amount it cost to demolish the building and transport the debris to the landfill.

Skov has worked with the property owners for the past couple of years to get rid of the home, she said. The occupants had to abandon the home after the bats made them sick. They were issued a permit to move a mobile home onto the property with the provision that the existing dwelling be demolished, she said.

However, a lack of money and other conditions are preventing the homeowner from doing anything, she said.

The only other recourse is through the legal process, she said. The homeowner has no money now to take care of the problem and won't have money then. The county would end up having dollars tied up in the court process and jail, Skov said.

Commissioner Lane Waldahl asked why it would cost the county more to use STS labor and highway department equipment.

"That's a good question," Skov said. "Time is one thing because we don't have a backhoe."

Commissioner Rodney Bounds said he thought the county cost would come under the $3,450 quote.

Mike Gibson commented that the $6,400 wouldn't really be out-of-pocket. The county already owns the equipment and pays the workers, he said.

"But it would be a transfer would it not, Deana, from your funds to their funds," said Chairman Dave Schermerhorn. "Technically it's not out-of-pocket, but it's from one fund to another."

Schermerhorn said he sees the point Gibson is making, but the county would be paying itself from one fund to the next.

The person taking the mechanic's lien could dispute that the county did not take the low bid, Commissioner Bill Stearns said was another problem.

Commissioners approved the $3,450 demolition contract and the additional landfill fees for the project.