A rejected request to use the Kirkbride tower as a wedding site became a late item for discussion Wednesday morning at the Fergus Falls Committee of the Whole meeting.
Rising majestically at the heart of the former state hospital building, the Kirkbride tower has been a key portion of the former medical complex that preservationists want left intact.
City Administrator Andrew Bremseth briefed the committee on a recent request by a couple from out of the area to hold their wedding ceremony in the tower of the castle-like Kirkbride.
Bremseth told the man making the request the Kirkbride had never been used for a wedding ceremony but also decided to see if the council supported or opposed his decision. At the prompting of council member Tom Rufer, Bremseth briefed the committee on the action he had taken and why.
“I did tell him that the position of the City Council was not to allow the public into this facility and especially would not allow for the wedding to take place,” Bremseth said. “My understanding in the brief conversation we had is that they actually want to have the ceremony in the tower.”
Bremseth pointed out that allowing a wedding ceremony in the tower would set a precedent and added there would be safety concerns to address — one of which would be air quality.
“I don’t even go in there without a mask and I can’t imagine it would be a pleasant place for the wedding at this point in time,” Bremseth said. “I feel staff would almost have to accompany folks because anywhere in the building you’re in an active construction zone.”
Phase II demolition work has been underway on buildings behind the Kirkbride tower since early in the summer.
Bremseth did not claim to have the final word of the request but added that the city has been “pretty strict” about what they allow and do not allow.
“I informed these individuals that we have only two groups from the public, one was the local Daily Journal, which were accompanied by staff at the time, and the other being the Prairie Public Television Channel, which was also accompanied by staff.”
The committee did not object to Bremseth’s decision but council member Scott Kvamme, who has frequently shared his views on looking into uses for the historic building, shared some of his thoughts.
“I think it indicates an ongoing interest in the use of the property,” Kvamme said. “We’ve been focused on Phase II demolition.”
Rufer asked if the wedding ceremony could take place on the RTC grounds outside the Kirkbride. Bremseth said the city has been open in the past to photoshoots and tours.
In other business the committee approved:
• A motion to send an encroachment agreement decision on West Channing Avenue to the Planning Commission meeting on Oct. 14.
• A recommendation to approve combined precincts for the May 3 presidential primary and the Aug. 12 primary elections.
• Nomination of council member Jim Fish to the Lakes Country Cooperative Board of Directors.
• Amended language in the agreement the city has with Greater Fergus Falls.
• A welfare fraud mutual aid agreement with Otter Tail County that would provide a half-time investigator to provide welfare fraud investigations through the county. The county attorney’s office would like to have a licensed peace officer as part of their two-man team. The city police force currently has an officer trained in welfare fraud.
• A loan of $10,000 from a community development block grant to Signs Up North LLC for work on their parking lot.
The Burlington Avenue Street and Utility Improvement Project. The project will combine three jobs into one project. City engineer, Brian Yavarow also got approval to order a preliminary engineering report and accept Pachin Messner’s professional services proposal for appraisal services.