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Condemned building in New Richmond gets final raze order

Vernon Borst stands outside his commercial building which is scheduled to be torn down in the coming weeks. Borst contends that the city handled the process behind the condemnation of his property in a poor way.

It's been more than five years since New Richmond condemned a commercial building and ordered that it be torn down.

Now, after years of legal wrangling, the end appears near for the facility, owned by Vernon Borst of Somerset.

Located at 648 W. Fourth St., the building has housed an antique and used equipment business operated by Borst for the last several years.

But as items began to pile up outside the facility, neighbors complained and New Richmond police cited Borst on numerous occasions for keeping junk on the property.

The roof on a portion of the building also collapsed and city Building Inspector John Frisco eventually condemned the property and, after Borst failed to come with a plan for needed repairs, ordered that the structure be razed.

Borst fought the citations and the raze order, telling city officials he wanted to repair the building and continue to operate his business. Eventually his legal options ran out.

Earlier this year, there was a glimmer of hope that the situation would turn out amicably. The city applied for a state grant that would have helped cover a portion of the building's demolition costs, but the grant award never came.

Frisco said he served Borst with a final raze order on June 7. The building's owner now has 40 days to remove all of his personal property from the building.

The city will then contract with someone to demolish the building, Frisco said, and bill Borst for the cost.

Frisco said it's a relief that the building's final days are near.

"We have such a huge time and financial investment into this issue," he said. "I'll be pleased to have closure on this."

Frisco added that neighbors will also be happy to no longer have to look at the dilapidated building and the items stored outside.

Borst said he's working to clean out his building and the grounds, but doesn't know if he'll have enough time to complete the task.

"I've got a lifetime of stuff here," he said. "I'm trying to get it done."

Even though he'd like to demolish his building himself and ensure that the cost is minimized, Borst said he's not about to seek any more legal action.

"I've run out of money, as far as lawyers go," he said. "I give up. This has all taken a toll on me."

Borst said he purchased the building and operated the business to help supplement his retirement income. It hasn't worked out that way, he reported, as he's spent more money on legal fees over the past five years than he's made selling used items.

Now he worries that the cost for the demolition will be higher than the value of his land, which could mean that he'll be even more in the hole financially, he said.

"They're not only tearing down a building, they're tearing down my life," he said. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

He said he doesn't know why the city targeted his building for demolition, but claims he tried to work with officials to find a compromise that would allow him to operate his business. In the end, Borst said, it became clear that he wouldn't be allowed to continue on no matter what he did.

"I thought this was the United States," he lamented.

Borst, 68, said he might have to go back to work if his financial position continues to worsen.

"I'm still in good shape, thank the Lord," he said. "I need to find a way to take care of my wife and myself."