March 19, 2007

Cokato council temporarily closes Gust Akerlund studio

City is making list of quick fixes; is working on long-term solution

By Lynda Jensen

Building safety issues at the historic Gust Akerlund Studio prompted the Cokato City Council to temporarily close it, per council action last Monday.

It will be reopened pending a structural inspection of the building, which is part of a first phase of a permanent solution to rehabilitate the deteriorating building.

During Monday’s meeting, the council heard the results of a visual inspection by Phil Caswell of Bonestroo, Rosene, Anderlik & Associates.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” he admitted, saying the foundation had serious issues.

However, he noted that the public safety issues were limited to certain specific things, such as the back landing, and could be fixed for the summer so that the studio could stay open during its busy time.

This would allow the city to pursue state grants that are geared toward rehabilitation of old buildings such as this.

Caldwell said the north side has pooling water against the foundation, which is accelerating its poor condition.

There are gaps in the foundation, and in concrete blocks as well, he said.

It was noted that roof work was done last year that was paid for by grants.

Museum Director Mike Worcester noted that since the studio was used as a residence up until the mid-’80s, it was actually taken care of most of its existence.

The electrical, as well as heating and air conditioning, are in good shape and were updated less than four years ago.

However, he also said that he stood in the front area, bouncing his heels, with the floor shaking in response.

The goal would be to stabilize what is there, and obtain a grant from the state for major restoration taking place.

It was decided to approve quick fixes not to exceed $10,000, obtain a letter of safety from the engineer, and to put together a proposal of options for the building. A list of temporary items will be assembled, with some work being supplied by the public works department.

The Gust Akerlund Studio is more than 100 years old, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A job well done by the public works department

Turning to other subjects, the council also repeated several compliments given to the public works department for its timely and clean removal of snow during the last few snowstorms.

The crew uses a brush hog to remove snow from downtown sidewalks.

Council Member Jan Severson went out of her way to pull the item from the agenda and comment on it, repeating compliments she has heard.

“Even other towns had comments to say,” Mayor Bruce Johnson agreed.

In a separate subject about snow removal, the council also discussed the costs associated with Highway 12 sidewalks and snow.

Since it is a state highway, the state is responsible for the costs associated with snow removal in its own right of way. Sometimes, the state will throw snow on the sidewalks while it is plowing Highway 12, it was noted.

Nevertheless, the city has found the state less and less cooperative in paying for it, and skeptical of how much it really costs to do it.

Council Member Wayne Murphy quizzed Ken Bakke of public works how much it costs to remove the snow. Bakke answered that it takes one man a full day and a half to remove snow on the two-mile stretch, both sides, for one snow storm.

Museum awarded grant from Wright-Hennepin

In other business, the council noted that Wright-Hennepin Electric Coop awarded $1,000 to the Cokato Museum. Severson expressed appreciation for the money.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• heard from Nancy Monroe, who said the higher curb installed along her property line from Wright County Road 3 reconstruction is backing up water into her basement. Her husband, Bruce, has a business there, and the water is ruining some items. The city will look into this.

• granted a 3.2 liquor license to Corey Nelson for a new business, to be located at the former Finish Line in downtown Cokato. When the council enacts its strong liquor ordinance, Nelson plans to apply for a permit as well.

• approved a proposal for professional engineering services to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in the amount of $24,400.

• approved the retrofit maintenance of an energy efficient lighting system at the library/museum building.

• noted that the public works department, once again, won an annual wastewater treatment plant operational award.

• noted that the second workshop for liquor ordinance issues is 6 p.m. Monday, March 26.

• approved a gambling permit to the fire department for pulltabs at Nelson’s, a new business opening in downtown Cokato.

This article was written with the aid of videotape supplied by the City of Cokato.

Second workshop set for liquor ordinance

The second workshop regarding a new strong liquor ordinance will be 6 p.m. Monday, March 26 at the Cokato City Hall.

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