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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

As Lakeland City Hall collapses, city officials struggle

Lakeland City Hall’s structural problems range from curved exterior walls to sagging roof framing and cracks in basement walls.

There are signs of water intrusion in the basement and is believed to be a mold problem. There are serious accessibility issues.

The building “is in poor condition due to structural wear, water ingress and multiple compliance issues,” wrote engineers at Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. in a recent report. “It is not recommended to continue investing in an existing facility.”

City officials are once again trying to determine what to do with the City Hall, an octagonal building at 690 Quinnell Ave. that was built as a Baptist church in 1868.

“I have three different reports on this building, dating back 20 years, and the situation is getting worse,” Acting City Clerk Michelle Elsner said Thursday. “I was just walking through the council chambers and saw new vertical cracks that I hadn’t seen before. Look at the retaining wall behind the building. It looks like if you hit it too hard, it might fall. The upper courtyard may fall into the lower one. “

Retaining wall tilts and separates from Lakeland Town Hall, which is greatly deteriorating, Thursday, November 4, 2021 (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

Six years ago, city employees moved from the building to the city’s water management building after the mayor’s office identified problems with mold, asbestos, roofing and access.

Former Mayor Amy Williams and two other city councilors voted in February 2016 to build a new town hall; Then-councilor Richard Glasgow argued that the problems could be solved at less cost than the estimated $ 548,000 for a new building.

Eight months later, Glasgow, running with like-minded candidates, defeated Williams to become mayor, 61 percent to 38 percent.

Five days later, a controversial building under construction was destroyed by arson. The case remains unsolved.

Rather than rebuilding on site, Lakeland authorities decided to remodel the old town hall; member of the board Jim Stanton developed the project and concluded the contract. The total amount spent on the project was US $ 213,344 according to the financial analysis of the State Auditor in 2018. Of this amount, almost $ 39,600 was spent on furniture purchases; $ 4,250 was spent on salaries, consultations, installation and graphics for the new audiovisual system of the City Hall; and $ 30,700 was spent on security, fire and burglar alarms, and access control systems, according to the auditor’s report.

As Lakeland City Hall Collapses, City Officials Struggle
The remnants of what was to be Lakeland’s new town hall were seen on the morning of Monday, November 14, 2016, after a fire destroyed the building late Sunday night. (Pioneer Press: Mary Devine)

But the asset assessment report, commissioned by the council in August for $ 3,200, shows that the building has “several key elements that need repair or modification to keep the building operating efficiently and safely.”

The most serious structural deficiencies are found in the original section of the building, where “the existing roof and wall structures are showing signs of wear and tear, likely due to overvoltage over the past 150 years,” the SEH report says. “The outer walls sag, and the roof frame has a noticeable sag in many places.”

The extension to the building, completed in 1986, has serious structural problems, including horizontal cracks in the structural walls of the basement, “which could be a sign of wear and tear,” the report said. “There are (also) signs of significant water ingress on the basement walls and it is believed that mold is likely to be present inside the building.”

As Lakeland City Hall Collapses, City Officials Struggle
Damage to Lakeland City Hall’s Access Road, Whose Condition Severely Degrades, Thursday November 4, 2021 (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

Exterior trim, including vinyl siding, roof shingles, edging and roof trim, have been damaged and have expired.

Also note that access to and through the building is restricted and does not comply with applicable state building codes and federal ADA requirements. According to the report, entrance doors, lobbies, stairs, ramps and toilets do not have sufficient clearances and will require significant renovations and modifications to the building to bring it into line.

SEH estimates that the repair costs to fix the problems and bring the building up to current standards will cost more than $ 300,000.

City officials want to hear from residents of the city about the future of the mayor’s office, said Mayor Joe Payment. “His condition is not what we hoped for,” he said. “Trying and repairing it is unprofitable. We really want the people of the city to come together and tell us what they would prefer us to do. “

As Lakeland City Hall Collapses, City Officials Struggle
Mold and cracks in the wall of a staircase in Lakeland City Hall that is getting worse, Thursday, November 4, 2021 (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

One option could be for Elsner, the acting city clerk, to move his office to the city’s water office. Then, he said, the city will rent a nearby room for the monthly city council meetings.

“As strange as it may sound, but not all of our meetings are packed to capacity, only standing places,” he said. “There is a lot of free space in Lakeland. Lakeland shopping center has a lot of space, Lakeland business center … “

According to him, one of the options could be the use of the building of the mayor’s office of the neighboring city. “We’ve had Zoom meetings for the past year, so they have to be connected and have cameras,” he said.

Elsner expressed the hope that a solution will be found in the near future.

“I’m allergic to mold,” she said. “I sat at the last council meeting and kept coughing, sneezing and blowing my nose.”


Lakeland City Council will meet from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm on November 16 to discuss the SEH report and what to do with Lakeland City Hall. The listening session will be in person and through Zoom.

Anyone with information about the 2016 arson that destroyed the Lakeland City Hall under construction is asked to call the Minnesota Arson Hotline at 800-723-2020; The Minnesota State Fire Marshal is offering a reward of up to $ 5,000.

World Nation News Desk
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