Owner, city should have cleanup plan for fire-ravaged buildings [UPDATED]Published 10:11am Wednesday, September 18, 2013 Updated 12:12pm Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Where’s the fire? Earlier this summer, the answer was easy — downtown Fergus Falls, in a building that housed multiple families and businesses.
But now, two months on, what remains is a shell of a building, suitable only for the mold and flies that have taken up residence inside.
While it is was easy to feel sympathy for Cole Seaborn, the owner of the building, in the days and weeks following the fire, such goodwill can be easily squandered by continued inaction with regards to cleanup and stabilization efforts, especially further protection from the elements.
Peering in the first floor windows, one is witness to a time capsule of the immediate aftermath of the fire.
Broken ceiling tiles, overturned furniture, water-soaked carpets, and mold — did I mention the mold? — are all evidence of absenteeism, or at the very least someone without a clear plan of action.
In no city, least of all Fergus Falls, should this be accepted as a normal course of events.
Recent rains have only exacerbated the situation, and, if one times one’s visits right, it is possible to witness rainwater freely running into the first floor space from above. Need we be reminded that winter is just around the corner?
It is also important to consider the building in a neighborhood context.
Active businesses operate on both sides of Mr. Seaborn’s building. One provides food, drink, and nightlife to a city deficient in all three; the other is a hair salon whose decision to vacate their downtown space was announced about a month after the fire and its aftermath.
Coincidence? Operating a business downtown in close quarters to others is not without risk, but being asked to conduct business next to a burgeoning health and safety hazard is beyond the pale.
A cynic would point to the city’s acquisition and demolition of a “problem property” in December of last year as a possible motive for the festering state of the downtown building, but surely Mr. Seaborn’s intentions are more honorable than that. But yet the question remains — what’s the holdup?
While saving the building is still an undertaking that is open to debate and will require new ideas, capital, and probably ownership, it is of utmost importance that cleanup and further stabilization occurs now so that this debate has a chance to take place at all.
Failing that, we should be prepared to live with a decaying eyesore or prematurely welcome the wrecking ball and the first vacant lot to our otherwise intact main street. Both are outcomes in which nobody wins.