Agencies quibble over RTC demo paperworkPublished 11:14am Friday, May 4, 2012
As the possibility of demolition looms for the Fergus Falls Kirkbride, two state agencies are discussing whether proper procedures were taken by the Minnesota state government before the property was turned over to the city.
On Monday, city officials announced that Fergus Falls had been copied on a letter from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO, a division of the Minnesota Historical Society) to the state Department of Administration – the entity that authored the grant agreement that gives Fergus Falls state dollars for the Regional Treatment Center’s demolition. The letter questioned whether the state had followed all of the requirements of the Minnesota Historic Sites Act before giving the grant (and the RTC buildings and land) to the city.
The inquiry came about after several inquiries on the property reached Mary Ann Heidemann, SHPO’s manager of government programs and compliance.
“We’ve had a number of … calls and concerned citizens and groups,” said Heidemann, adding, “We get calls like that all the time.”
Heidemann perused the SHPO’s records on the RTC and found an environmental assessment worksheet, but she couldn’t find a written agreement between the Department of Administration and MHS on a suitable course of action, as required in Minnesota statute 138.665 subdivision 2. Without the agreement, she said, it’s unclear whether the Department of Administration and MHS consulted on the building.
Under the statute (instituted in the 1960s), if a building on the State or National Register of Historic Places is going to be significantly affected or demolished using state money, the agency responsible for the proposed change must meet with the MHS to see if any alternative can be found which would allow the building to remain unaffected. The state department and MHS must come to a written agreement about the course of action, and if an agreement can’t be reached, the parties may appeal to the governor for a mediation task force.
Reaching an agreement does not mean that a building will be preserved, noted Heidemann.
“We have projects all the time where buildings end up being demolished,” she said.
SHPO and the Department of Administration are currently working to determine if all of the required actions were taken.
They were taken, according to Department of Administration representative Wayne Waslaski. Waslaski, who has been working with the RTC property for several years, said that MHS was involved with the project as far back as 2001, when a SHPO representative was on the committee for the building’s original reuse study.
“The people who are there now weren’t involved back when this work was being done,” he said.
Waslaski said his department plans to show its work.
“We’re going to provide a written response to them and document all the steps we’ve been through, including their involvement with the process,” he said.
While the state agencies are at work, the Friends of the Kirkbride preservation group is urging Fergus Falls residents through media appearances and flyers to come to the May 7 city council meeting at city hall to show their support for saving the Kirkbride. The council may decide whether to move forward with demolition of the building at the meeting.
The meeting is at 5:30 p.m., and a work session to discuss the building is taking place one hour earlier.Tags: Regional Treatment Center