Isanti tackles three different “nuisances”

This dilapidated building on Railroad Avenue will be the subject of a public hearing to declare it a nuisance and the city potentially taking steps to abate it at the owner’s expense. The building hasn’t been completely fixed in over a year following a wall and part of the ceiling collapsing. 

The city of Isanti, as well as other businesses, are required to have an approved COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in place by June 29, per Governor Tim Walz executive order issued June 5.

During the June 16 council meeting, the council was informed city staff has reviewed the plan and updated it following the requirements and guidelines set forth by the Minnesota Department of Health, including new guidelines released that very day.

The COVID-19 Preparedness Plan includes plans for the Isanti Community Center, as well as city events and programming.

Council Member Jim Gordon asked a question related to COVID leave, and why that is separate from traditional sick leave and does not count against an employee’s sick leave. 

City Administrator Josi Wood explained that is part of the guidelines and regulations set forth by the state, and it includes not only being sick with COVID-19, but also quarantining after potential exposure and leave to care for children due to distance learning.

Public hearing for nuisance abatement 

The council approved a public hearing to take place at its July 7 council meeting regarding the abatement of a property at 105 Railroad Avenue. 

In the spring of 2019, an exterior wall of the building collapsed and there was some roof damage, as well, Community Development Director Sheila Sellman explained. 

The owner of the building pulled a building permit to repair the wall in August 2019; permits are valid for 180 days, she added.

The owner of the building has been working on the repairs for 10 months, and MNSPECT has had several conversations and written correspondence with the owner regarding the repairs and timing. The wall has been repaired, but is incomplete – still needing weather barrier and siding. The roof has not been repaired, Sellman said. 

The last written correspondence was in January 2020, when the owner said he would have the roof repaired as soon as possible, weather permitting. However, it has been six months, and the weather has been nice enough to complete the project, Sellman continued.

A final letter was sent to the owner stating that if repairs were not complete by June 15, the city council may take action.

“It has been a long time, it has become an eyesore and a nuisance,” Sellman said, noting the property could be abated to fix and assess or there are other alternatives.

Johnson noted the owner had been sent a letter stating the council was going to take this into consideration, and he was not present at the council meeting.

Council Member Dan Collison asked what kind of structure it is. “It’s that old building. You know where the old cabinet shop is kitty-corner here. The wall collapsed over a year ago, I believe I called Chief Muyres on that. It was due to weather and the trains coming by, or maybe just old age. Right now, the way it looks, I think it’s hideous. It’s got plywood walls, the building is leaning to the left, the roof is leaking. I mean, it’s . . . not that the tin shack next to it is any better, but one step at a time.”

After some discussion regarding the options, and an explanation by Sellman and Finance Director Mike Betker about how the city recoups its money if it abates the property and pays for the repairs to the building, the council approved and scheduled a public hearing for the abatement.

Generators for public buildings

The council approved the purchase of several generators at a cost of approximately $298,000, which will come from the capital improvement fund.

Wood explained to the council that the city has never had generators for several of the city’s buildings and lift stations. It is important for the city to function and serve its residents in the case of an emergency situation that includes a power outage, Wood said.

A total of 13 generators will be installed at city facilities and lift stations throughout the city.  

“It’s well overdue, I can’t believe we don’t have them already,” Mayor Jeff Johnson said.

“This is a plan I worked on six years ago,” Wood said.

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