Archived Story

RTC preservationists rally as demo deadline approaches

Published 8:55pm Monday, April 30, 2012 Updated 3:47pm Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Supporters of saving the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center came out of the woodwork Monday night during a city council work session – everyone from a coalition of citizens to some private developers to the Minnesota Historical Preservation Society. However, discussion at the meeting indicated that unless an 11th hour event changes matters, the council is still moving forward toward demolishing most of the remaining RTC structures, with bids tentatively set to go out in July.

Close to 40 community members attended the meeting, at least in part due to an effort by Friends of the Kirkbride to get people out to support the RTC’s preservation. Due to time constraints, they were not given a chance to speak, but two other groups were represented loud and clear in the discussion.

On Monday afternoon, the city received a letter from the Minnesota Historical Society questioning whether the state of Minnesota had followed all of the guidelines of the Minnesota Historic Sites Act before it turned the property over to the city. The letter, said advisor on the RTC Kent Mattson, was not immediately clear about what part of the statute might have been ignored, but staff will be looking into it this week. He noted that the state had previously entered a contract with the city for the demolition grant funds, and the city would be looking to see that the agreement was honored.

“We will take serious challenge to a state agency trying to (reverse the arrangement) now,” he said, adding that the goal is to work the situation out cooperatively.

The other supportive group is made up of developers (not organized together) who are still investigating the possibility of buying the RTC property. Former potential developers Atul Wahi and Global Athlete Village have remained in contact with the city, and City Administrator Mark Sievert said that a third developer who had previously submitted a letter of interest regarding the property has inquired about getting involved again.

“Are we open to others between now and whenever the decision is made?” asked Mayor Hal Leland.

“Certainly,” Sievert replied.

Though the efforts to save the building remain, the council also received arguments for tearing the building down. Appraiser Michael Bownik, who has worked with the property for a decade, said that the property has a negative value and stated his belief that it was doubtful a reuse for the building could be found – particularly one that could be sustained by the size of the community. City Engineer Dan Edwards reported the staff recommendation that the city tear down everything on the remaining property besides the center tower structure.

“We think this fits in best with the ability of the community to redevelop property up there,” said Edwards.

If demolition is what the council decides to do, Edwards said the decision should be made at one of the council’s May meetings to stay on schedule. June would be spent preparing bid documents, with the bid process beginning in July. At that point, said Edwards, it would probably be best to stop looking for developers in order to not needlessly put contractors out of time and money working on a bid.

Before then, however, the city is free to keep looking for redevelopment options, and multiple council members spoke in favor of working on a “parallel track.”

“We can still make a (different) decision; we’ve still got until July 1,” said Alderman Scott Rachels.

  • Kirkbride lover

    How convieniant that they had no time for people other than themselves to be heard.

  • shamrock

    Our city council. sheesh, what a bunch of morons!!
    Seems to me they just want to ‘win’ at something and will go lengths to matter what the outcome is to be..
    People were asked to go to this meeting, so they do, and THEY don’t have an opportunity to speak!!??
    I really wish more people would go out there and tour that state hospital!! The could see for themselves!
    If they have the urge to tear something down, why not that UGLY building standing there on Union!! what an eyesore!!

  • Kirkbride lover

    Bev, i love the way you think. Are you a friend of the Kirkbride? Personally i think we need about 200 people to show up and demand that they be heard one by one.

  • Jake Krohn

    There is a lot of anger, pent-up and otherwise, around this issue. Having public meetings where the “public” are reduced to mute observers is not helping the city’s cause.

    The solution is obvious, of course. It’s time to follow the lead of our president and have a beer summit!

    I’m only half-kidding. Engaging with our elected officials is like pulling teeth, it seems. We all need a forum where we can gather and air our grievances without all of the cerimonial aloofness that the council chambers bring.

    • nanajean

      Jake we had one a year ago at Legacy Hall. It was an educational experience seeing all that could be done. The Mayor was the only one who came in his head held high. The few of the council that came, came sneaking in, and did not stay long into the presentation, and they snuck out again. It would be nice if they read all the material sent to them, they would realize we are doing a great job trying to show them what we could have here. This is the draw that will make Fergus part of the Lakes Country Tourist Industry. Isn’t this what the City has been chanting for years, HOW DO WE BRING IN THE TOURISTS!?? Its in front of them and they don’t see it.

      • holly

        Jean – It’s great that you have passion for your cause (preserving the Kirkbride). But I wonder if you (and some others) even think before you hit “enter” sometimes. Do you really believe that you have a better chance at attaining your goals if you belittle and denigrate the City Council members? Don’t you think they read these comments? You and others who post here seem to have this superiority complex, and that anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot. Not necessarily a recipe for success, in any endeavor, certainly not in this case, where you will need the support of those you constantly chastise. Think about it.

  • MNMan66

    I would like to know, where is the rush in tearing this historic place down? I applaud the city council on being watchdogs for the city, and being careful on who would like to take this over. You do have to ensure that whatever entity takes over possesion of the site should be fiscally responsible, and have all the resources. However, this is not like selling a house. That in itself takes time. You do need parties that will be able to renovate the buildings and use what is there. The city could also renovate some of the buildings for use as well. I also keep hearing that we need more tourism in Fergus Falls. Well, take advantage of what is already here and turn it into something that will draw people here. After touring the site, I think it is an awesome portion of Fergus Falls that should be utilized and not torn down.

  • BWD

    For several years now, the RTC has undergone argument and Discussion. Where were you then, Mike? How about you putting up that first $500,000 Dollars to save this bad boy?

    At the last minute, you again cry foul? Where were all those Preservationists before this meeting?

    Mike: If the city approved of anything, you cry foul. If the city disapproved of anything, you cry foul. I don’t see you offering anything to save this place, except to cry everyone a river and THEN BLAME THE CITY COUNCIL. And you say you need 200 people. Where are they Mike?
    I guess they did not show up, did they.

    Have you checked the New Ice Rink for 200 these people? I guess you can’t find 200 people that care all that much about saving the place.

    So, Appraiser Michael Bownik doesn’t know what he is talking about?

    Think again. That is why no Developer wants to lay his own cash down on this place. This is a dead business duck and it always has been. It was never there in the first place.

    The Chinese were interested in ONLY until they realized our City Government was not going to flip the bill for them. That is developer Atul Wahi game too, or he’d be laying his money down. Others have looked at it too, all wondering if taxpayer assistance was available. Once they found out it was not,….they left. They ain’t going to take on this dead duck all by themselves. They ain’t that stupid.

    What is there now you do not understand?
    Crying foul against the City Council ain’t putting the needed money on the table,… just your crocodile tears.

    • nanajean

      Oh once again David is talking with out knowing. First off the RFP, as it has been looked at by council, and developers was designed in such a way that no one would have met the criteria. For Atul to have stuck it out this long is amazing. And its exactly the reason he was the only one to come forward. Secondly, the ice rink has been crammed down the throats of the many to make the few happy. And that one will cost the tax payers forever, because there was a slight miscalculation on what the maintenance bill was going to be. This can pay for it self if given the opportunity

  • Kirkbride lover

    Jake i agree, we should have a group that can help decide but as soon as the payoff of “green space” is there the city will keep everyone quiet to get what they want.
    Holly, it seems the only time the council wants to talk is in private where they can hide, Why did they not want to address any of the issues in front of cameras? Why did they make up the extra room to 900,000 square feet? That is more of the number before they tore the buildings down from before. These people don’t want the input from the public or they would post and advertise for the public to join the meeting.
    Kevin, in what i have found is they want green space with no potential buyers for it. Also there is talk that Jameson (Jay) Cichosz wants only the frontal building as his new law office, thus tearing it down without a lot of people knowing would make it quick and easy to get the job done. As far as tourists if people look on the city of Fergus Falls web site they have the Kirkbride right on the main page! Use it but not be proud to have such a treasure. I agree they should use it instead of waste it.
    Dave, for your information i was a pontential buyer last year until my backer found a different property in the twin cities area. Why haven’t you tried to buy it? Trust me if i had the $500,000 i would definently put it down on the purchase of this place. The whole reason being it is worth it! I will cry foul when my right to freedom of speech is taken away! That is my Amended right as a citizen of the U.S.A. Maybe you don’t mind being told what, where, when you can talk and do what you want but i do. I will continue to point fingers as well. Preservationists were at the meeting in fact! One was sitting right next to me and he wasn’t allowed to speak either. So how does that work? A council that wants you to come but denies you your rights! All takers, do what we want you to do and get nothing but a good bending over in the end. If you can’t see that then you aree no better than they are. I tell you what Dave before you run your mouth that you cannot verify i would shut up, I donate over 30 hours a week for this place, I also donate my time to come and do security, i spend roughly $200 a weekend coming up there. I promote this place, help repair, clean up, ect.. What have you offered this place besides a mouthful of negative crap, and badgering people for stating that they are denied the rights that were signed from our forefathers to protect us against things like this. Why would i visit your ice rink? How long will the residents pay for that rink? That is as stupid as keep pushing for the vikings stadium after it has been shot down how many times. There is nothing there for me. Furthermore maybe the people have jobs to go to unlike you. Thats why we have over 3000 signatures to keep the place. People do come from all around to see it. I am not here to debate the credability of anyone. If he is mislead from the info the council has provided then no his isn’t doing his job. Once again Dave you show your true colors of ignorance. Why was Fergus Falls built around the hospital then? Why was it way past capacity for so long? There are many items i could go on with here but am not going to lower myself so you can understand. As long as you are on the computer maybe you should do some homework on the place and state FACTS. Atul had the money but why put it down to only not get paperwork to bring back to his investers? Thats stupid! Then to get belittled and yelled at by Mark Seivert? That was a joke! What is there not to understand for you is the question. I see both sides, how about you? Don’t point your finger at me until you have proof! Why don’t you kick this sleeping croc and see what kind of bite you get?

    • BWD

      Well, Mike.
      Now that you and your friends of the Kirkbride have called me dirty names on your ‘savethekirkbride’ facebook, I hope you feel better. I hope those others like you and your dirty little friends you claim now understand your true inner character.

      I hope you got a good snicker at calling me such a dirty name in public print. We now see how you really attack people who have a different opinion than you.

      You aren’t worth saving Mike, and neither is your Kirkbride.

  • nanajean

    Holly if you think I have denigrated anyone they may have deserved it. Those that I have injured I will apologize to, though none of them communicate with me. And I suppose their actions last year could have been described another way, but it boils down to the same thing. Obviously you don’t have anything to care about, or you would not have the time to be on my and others back. You really don’t have a clue….And that is what gives the appearance of a superiority complex. Its on you not others.

    • camobabe

      Mike, Jake, Jean, Kevin, and all the friends of the Kirkbride… I love the sight of those buildings. They are the product of people who took pride in their work and what they were doing when they built it, maintained it, performed their duties caring for and ministering to the many patients over the years. It was built in a time when we had higher standards of pride in ourselves, our communities, our country, and we expected certain levels of decency and character from the members of our ccommunity.

      But the people who built the Kirkbride and worked there weren’t the whiney and uninformed bunch you who defend it have become. If anyone comes here to inform you that the council have only a certain amount of time to meet and gather info from the players in this drama, and the allotted time expires and the members have to adjourn , but will reschedule another meeting to consider and evaluate other possibilities and A NEW PROPOSAL WHICH HAD JUST ARRIVED AND THEY HAD NOT YET READ, what is the reaction from the audience of victims who aren’t getting the answers that they want for a knight in shining armor to throw money in a pit to keep the audience of vitims happy? They whine and pule and froth at the mouth and yell, “Conspiracy!!! Outrage!!! We Want what we want and we want it now and sombebody better come up with however much money it takes for us to have our toys!!

      I have had my share of times when I was upset with the council, and have ripped them here when they deserve it, but it is obvious that they are doing what they are allowed to do within the constraints of the law, the dictates of schedules and deadlines, the obligations they have to not encumber the city with financial obligations which are not covered by mechanisms to pay for those expenditures, and deal with an economic environment in which few developers are willing to risk money when they are uncertain what the national government plans to pull on them next in the way of regulations, fees, taxes, hordes of protestors rampaging through the streets because they don’t believe they are getting theor share of the pie. I f you want to insult someone and rage that you aren’t getting your way with the RTC, go camp on the White House lawn and scream at the people inside.

      Geez, I want to keep the RTC as much as any of you, but I am beginning to think I am on the side of nasty spoiled brats. Dave Adams may send you a message you don’t want to deal with, but how do you react when he shoots a jolt of reality your way? You want to trample the messenger.
      If you are really serious about saving the RTC, YOU round up a developer. Get on all your social networks and spread the word. And don’t just sluff off this suggestion, as you know that a half dozen people can get in youtube or other venues and shoot out something which goes viral. I believe the council and city staff are doing all that they are legally able to find a developer. So help them find one if you really want to save the RTC.There are only a few of them, most have jobs, families,but there are ten times as many of you who could be hitting the keyboards right now. Get clicking, you might turn something up.

      • nanajean

        All we are saying is that they need to look at how they have put things together. If the RFP’s had been done correctly there would have been more time for the developers to have put things together in the manner that the city presented. Why do you think 6 of them declined to submit? It wasn’t because they didn’t want to do it, but the RFP’s timeline was such they could not comply in the untimely manner that they were asking for. And we all have heard that they could have the extension, but before doing anything else they need to rewrite the RFP. It has not been done in a fair manner to anyone who would come in and want to redevelop this property.

      • Cinder103

        Let me make this easy for you camilla!/groups/146744348673366/

        Now will you stop making comments about how we dont get the word out.

  • BWD

    Ok, Mike:

    You want to save the Kirkbride. Fine. Show me the money!

    You say you have 3,000 Signatures on a document requesting to keep the place standing. That’s fine.

    And you state that you have donated lots of time and money working and volunteering at the Kirkbride. That is your investment. That is fine.

    Your Passion speaks for itself.

    HOWEVER – Did you think to ask those 3,000 Signatures for $100 each? How about $200 a piece? Or a $500 Pledge?

    NOW – Signatures are fine and well intended. But good intentions are best served with money behind (backing) the intention. Just signing with no investment is a very easy and cheap thing to do.

    And no Mike, If had 100K or 500K, I can certainly think of better ways to invest than in the Kirkbride.

    And that folks, is the Kirkbride’s biggest problem.

  • Ryan Howard

    Commenting has been disabled on this article because of hostile statements made by some involved. Also, swearing, even when attributing it to others, is not allowed in The Daily Journal’s comments sections. We ask that everyone behave civilly in conversations on our website.

  • Pingback: Preservation Alliance of Minnesota » Fergus Falls RTC Resources()

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