Concerned citizens not giving up on north building
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 6:59 AM
Citizens interested in preserving the last remaining county "poor farm" building in Freeport aren't giving up.
Carol Dowe, a Decorah native who lives in British Columbia, Canada, has requested time on the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors' Monday, Feb. 25, agenda to discuss the matter.
On a 4-1 vote last week, the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to take down the building.
Supervisor Mark Kuhn made the motion, which stated: "In review of the north building's condition and lack of compatible use to Wellington Place, that the north building be deconstructed in accordance with Wellington Place's request."
Supervisors John Logsdon, Floyd Ashbacher, Dennis Karlsbroten and Kuhn voted in favor of the motion, while supervisor Dean Thompson voted against it.
Wellington Place is a county owned, privately managed care facility attached to the north building by an annex. Wellington Places leases its facility from the county for $1 per year.
Last summer, Wellington Place Administrator Deb Vondersitt requested the county take down the north building because she said its sprinkler system, which is attached to Wellington Place, does not meet state fire code, in addition to other safety concerns. She said the fire marshal had verbally given her a deadline of May of this year to update the north building's sprinkler system or Wellington Place would lose its nursing facility certification.
Prior to the Board's vote last week, supervisors heard comments from citizens interested in preserving the building and others with concerns over the cost of renovating or "mothballing" it.
The north building was constructed in the 1880s and it last served as the men's unit for the Winneshiek County Care Facility (now Wellington Place) in the early 1990s before the new care facility nursing unit was built. Since then, it's been used for storage.
During last week's meeting, Gerald Harvey of Decorah circulated a copy of the state fire marshal's most recent report on Wellington Place and noted it did not specify any problems with the north building.
Over the weekend, Dowe was in contact with Dan Wood, acting special agent with the state fire marshal's office. Dowe received an e-mail from Wood, which she forwarded to the supervisors.
"Through my research I have done on the building (Wellington Place facility) the current area being used has been inspected in the past year and is believed to be up to all the codes and standards that are required," Wood wrote.
"It is also my understanding there is a part of the building not being used (the north building) and is due to be torn down. It is up to the facility and its owners whether this building is torn down or not. The state fire marshal's office only regulates the portion of the building that is licensed and we will not stand between any citizen and the facility owners in any dispute."
Four proponents for saving the north building were outside the supervisors' board room Monday morning holding signs stating "stop the bulldozers."
The supervisors are scheduled to hear from the citizens concerned about saving the north building at 9:30 a.m. during their Monday, Feb. 25, meeting.