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Ceiling falls; concerns rise

A small section of ceiling in the basement of the New Richmond Civic Center collapsed recently.

While the damage appeared minor, the incident could lead to a major headache for city officials.

Turns out the ceiling tiles and plaster in the conference room adjacent to the kitchen contains asbestos.

At Monday's regular New Richmond City Council meeting, City Administrator Mike Darrow said the area has been closed off as the city determines what to do about the situation.

"It's not a public risk," he insisted.

Darrow said consulting firm Cedar Corporation and Building Inspector Sara Skinner have both recommended that the ceiling be patched and the localized asbestos issue be dealt with at a cost of $4,000 to $5,000.

But council member Ron Volkert, who admitted to being tight with city tax dollars, said a band aid approach to the problem may be a bad idea.

"When it comes to asbestos, I don't think you can be too safe," he said. "We have to be concerned about the safety of our employees. I don't like to spend money, but when it comes to something like this..."

Council member Roberta Dale-Wozniak agreed, noting that the recent ceiling incident could be an indication that more problems are just around the corner. She said she favored a more proactive approach to dealing with the issue.

"I really don't want people to get sick," she said.

Council member Craig Kittel said at some point the council has to trust what the experts are recommending.

Darrow noted that if the council begins replacing complete ceilings, further investigation of potential hazards could lead to a big-ticket job.

"You may have to do the whole building," he said. "You could spend $80,000 to get all these ceilings."

Kittel suggested the city inspect the entire building to see what problems exist, or what potential problems could be on the horizon. He said the council could then determine a course of action and plan for the potential costs in the upcoming budget.

The issue will be added to the council's work session on Aug. 26 for possible action.

"I don't want to sit on this very long," Volkert commented. "I want it taken care of."

In other business:

-- The council approved the certified survey map for lots within the Skoglund Properties LLP development at High Street and Knowles Avenue. A free-standing Subway restaurant with a drive-thru is being proposed for the site.

-- Mayor Fred Horne reported that the New Richmond Fire and Rescue Department has moved into its newly remodeled space.

-- The council amended airport zoning ordinances to deal with site plan review for future construction on the northeast side of New Richmond Regional Airport.

-- The council approved a request from VFW Post 10818 in New Richmond for a car show to be held at Mary Park from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. According to VFW member Dave Sharretts, the event was previously held in the parking lot at Fast Freddie's, which is now closed. He indicated that 140 classic cars came to last year's show, and organizers are hoping even more will show up this year. There will be music and food on site, Sharretts said, and various hobby and craft vendors will also be displaying their wares. Council member Scottie Ard asked the organizers to ensure that classic car owners be careful of the park's grass and not tear up the turf during the event.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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