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Crosslake: Council appointment, mold report, fire hall project all lead to contention

Four-member council can't agree whether to remodel former city hall building for fire department or construct a new facility

CrosslakeCityHall2.JPG
Crosslake City Hall.
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Should the former Crosslake City Hall building be renovated for fire department use, or completely torn down and replaced with a new fire hall facility?

No one can agree on what to do.

After one idea failed for lack of support and two ideas failed on 2-2 tie votes in answer to the question at a contentious, voices-raised meeting Monday, Aug. 10, the Crosslake City Council ultimately indicated a fifth council member may be needed to cast a deciding vote.

After lengthy and heated discussion that led to stalemates, the council agreed to have the city’s personnel committee interview the four applicants for a vacant council seat from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Aug. 12, and the council will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, to appoint someone. Visit www.pineandlakes.com for updated information.

The appointment is necessary after former council member Gary Heacox resigned July 20 because he was moving out of state the next day.

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Mayor Dave Nevin’s idea to put the building question on the Nov. 3 general election ballot to let city voters decide went nowhere after receiving no support from council members Dave Schrupp, John Andrews and Aaron Herzog.

Herzog’s idea to convene the city’s building committee as soon as possible to look at information at a one-time meeting and share an opinion with the council failed 2-2 with Schrupp and Andrews opposed.

Schrupp’s suggestion to build a completely new facility then failed 2-2 with Nevin and Herzog opposed.

Nevin believes remodeling can continue at the building, despite findings of mold and poor initial construction. Schrupp and Andrews believe a new building is warranted. Herzog wasn’t ready to take a stance Monday because new information was shared and emotions were running high.

Controversial start

Monday’s meeting was argumentative from the start, when Nevin recommended the council appoint Marcia Seibert-Volz to the vacant council position.

Schrupp asked if any applicants had been interviewed, and the mayor responded none had been interviewed in person.

Schrupp said the council had agreed to advertise the vacancy and have the personnel committee interview applicants, noting he’d heard some applicants were upset because they didn’t get an interview.

He suggested the council table any action, interview applicants as the council initially agreed to do, and then make a decision. Nevin said that would be another delay in the process, and Schrupp said the council needed to follow the rules.

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City Attorney Brad Person said any motion needed three majority votes to pass, and he heard two council members questioning the interview process, indicating a majority vote to appoint Seibert-Volz wouldn’t occur.

Nevin said the personnel committee - which includes himself, Herzog, Police Chief Erik Lee and City Administrator Mike Lyonais - recommended appointing Seibert-Volz on a 2-1 vote (Lee was absent) and neither the city clerk nor the administrator challenged that action.

After Person reiterated that an appointment needed three votes to pass, Nevin said the personnel committee would have to go back and interview applicants.

Those applicants also include Kevin Sedivy; Brad Nelson, a former council member; and Patty Norgaard, former mayor. The three-person personnel committee reviewed the four letters of interest Thursday, Aug. 6, and after much discussion and three motions, recommended that the council appoint Seibert-Volz.

Tension over mold report

Nevin said he took it upon himself to call ServiceMaster in October 2018 to have the former city hall building tested for mold, and he was berated Monday for not sharing test results until nearly two years later. In his defense, Nevin said the council and staff at that time weren’t interested in the report.

On Monday, Ken Retka, of ServiceMaster, presented those test results that indicated a few areas of alarm for mold, most notably the fire department office. Nevin frequently interrupted Retka, asking who was present at city hall during the testing, what comments were made and what kind of reception Retka received.

Nevin then asked for questions, and addressing the police chief, said: “I’ve heard a rumor you want to stick my head on a platter.”

Lee said he didn’t want to stick Nevin’s head on a platter, but said the mayor - a council member at the time he initiated the mold report - circumvented the process, which is why the police chief became upset with Nevin. Lee said he never said the process should not be completed.

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“You circumvented me, Mayor. You do not circumvent me and go into my office without acting as a council member with council member approval,” Lee said, saying they didn’t know about the mold inspection until it was done, and Nevin was not acting as a council member then, but as Dave Nevin, private citizen.

Lee and Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller said more information should have been forthcoming to city employees, the city council and Crosslake citizens who visited the city building if Nevin knew there were dangerous levels of mold in the city hall building two years ago.

“You were given an opportunity to bring that to the council and you refused,” Lee said.

Nevin said he tried several times to bring the report, but the council and city staff did not want to receive the report or to reimburse him for it. The council did vote to reimburse the report cost last month.

“We talked about mold in the building committee many times. Why didn’t you bring it up?” Lohmiller asked Nevin, until two years later.

Nevin reiterated that no one had an interest to look at the document so he took it home, shoved it in his Crosslake folder and didn’t think of it again until now.

When asked, Nevin said he couldn’t recall if he read the report before filing it.

Lohmiller said it would have been valuable information for the building committee - which recommended remodeling the former city hall building for fire department use - and Hy-Tec Construction, hired to do the remodel. Lohmiller said Nevin had the opportunity to tell the council he was wrong in having the mold inspection done without council approval, to share the report and have the city look into the mold issue.

When Nevin asked City Administrator Mike Lyonais for comments, Lyonais said when he found out in 2018 that Nevin was doing the mold inspection he asked him to stop.

“You hung up on me,” Lyonais said, noting Nevin had the opportunity to do this as a proper study but instead didn’t follow the process.

“The fact you paid and did it on your own is no longer relevant. The fact you didn’t share it with people is,” Lyonais said. “I’m not a mold expert either, but I’m smart enough to pick up a report and see red and do an investigation. You said there was no problem. I have no excuse you didn’t see that.”

Two residents who served on the building committee - Sedivy and Dan Heggerston - said they were disheartened, disappointed and felt misled that Nevin didn’t share the mold report so the committee could have made better decisions.

Stalemate on what to do

In a report, Hy-Tec Construction said the existing city building is not in good condition, original construction practices were very poor, and there are and will be unknown underlying issues with the building as remodeling work continues. Hy-Tec owner Mitch Feierabend shared his opinion that the council should build a new facility.

Nevin said he wants to make sure the council is doing the right thing for the people in Crosslake, and he believes the former city hall building has significant problems but can be remodeled, citing estimated costs to finish the remodel at $1.7 million compared to estimated costs to build a new facility at $3.6 million.

The city has invested about $125,000 in the remodel so far.

Schrupp noted the remodeled building would have an estimated life of 25 years, while a new building’s life is expected to be 50 years.

“I’m looking at the life of the building. I’m looking down the road quite a ways,” he said, noting the $3.6 million cost of a new building today would be much higher in 25 years. “In my world, you grab that number now. Interest rates are low. I just can’t see putting any more money into a building if we’re going to gut the thing.”

Andrews also supported pursuit of a new building.

Herzog said more questions need to be answered and more information needs to be gathered, including input from the city’s business community. A decision needs to be based on logic and not emotions, he said.

“I’m hearing way too many emotions tonight,” he said.

Nevin said having a couple hiccups during the remodel is not an excuse to tear the building down and build new.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSCROSSLAKECROSSLAKE CITY COUNCIL
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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