Solid waste ordinance will be implemented for fire-damaged property in Northeast Little Falls

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

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While partial demolition has been completed at a fire-damaged property at 516 Fourth St. N.E. (sometimes listed a 516 Fourth Ave. N.E.), that has stalled and the property has become a hazard.

The home on that lot was destroyed by fire in December 2011. The city of Little Falls was in the process of acquiring the lot when it was purchased by neighbor Jill Gottschalk, who owns the property to the south.

Gottschalk began the demolition on the burned home, but has now told the city that no more cleanup will be done.

“We thought it was going to be cleaned up, but it hasn’t been yet,” said Lori Kasella, co-acting city administrator.

While Morrison County has used its solid waste ordinance in the past as a catalyst for cleanup of such situations, it has never progressed to the point where the county actually completed the cleanup.

“Because of the type of siding that was on the house, there are special ways it needs to be handled,” said Public Works Director Steve Backowski.

County Attorney Brian Middendorf pointed out concerns that the county would be taking on the up-front cost of the cleanup and potential liability.

“The cost of cleanup would be billed to the owner,” Backowski said, “and if it’s not paid, it would be added to the property’s assessments.”

“Whereas it would take the city of Little Falls a number of months to complete the process to get this cleaned up, it would take the county a couple of weeks,” said Deb Gruber, county administrator.

“We just want to get it cleaned up,” said Kasella. “The city is working together with the county to get it cleaned up the quickest way possible.”

The County Board instructed Backowski to move forward with the process. The next step is to notify the property owner that the issue is now with the county, and will be brought to the next board meeting.

“It’s in our best interests for health and safety to get this cleaned up,” said Commissioner Jeff Schilling.

“People in the cities pay county taxes just like people in the townships; we have an obligation to them too,” said Commissioner Rich Collins.