Officials in Ward County, North Dakota have ordered that residents of the Emerson Apartment complex, in the town of Minot, vacate the property by the 15th of October and not allow for future tenants. The county now owns the building, which sits near the county courthouse, and is examining its options on how to deal with the site. Last week, members of the County Commission deliberated over the future of the building, which is contaminated with asbestos. After the residents have vacated the building, the commission will decide if the asbestos needs to be removed before or after the building's demolition, or if it would be feasible to remodel the building and remove the asbestos during the process.
According to Mr. Dana Larsen, a highway engineer for Ward County, a complete run of tests still needs to be conducted to determine the level and extent of asbestos use in the building's original construction materials. He said that the pipes in the building would need to be tested to ascertain the amount of asbestos insulation used and how the dangerous material was distributed throughout the structure. Mr. Larsen estimates that the asbestos remediation and cleanup would run from $125,000 to $150,000.
The commission agreed to allow Mr. Larsen to pursue grants that would alleviate some of the costs of asbestos removal at the site. However, they have not yet agreed as to what should become of the building and the site. County Commissioner John Fjeldahl moved that the building should be put up for sale, but no other members of the commission seconded the motion. Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg has stated that the county should attempt to remove all of the asbestos from the site before putting the building on the market. Commissioner Jack Nybakken proposed that the building stay open due to the city's current housing crunch. While the previous meeting resulted in a four-to-one vote in favor of demolition, the county has yet to set plans in motion for the building to come down.
Commission Chairman Bruce Christiansen mentioned that the building presents a serious environmental and fire hazard. He also expressed his fears about how the building had become a serious problem for the neighborhood and that the decisions regarding its fate would carry "great ramifications and consequences".
Bruce Walker, a representative with the property management firm First Minot Management, remarked to the commission that the city is suffering from a housing shortage and that availability for housing is at the lowest level in a quarter-century. He also told commissioners that the site does not require demolition and needs to be kept available for tenants who may not have anywhere else to go. According to Mr. Walker, the building is "safe now" and that the asbestos contamination is "not an issue". His firm has offered to keep the property open for renters for the next two years while the council decides on whether to sell the building to another party, keep it and remove the asbestos, or carry out their previous vote for demolition.