Beebe Building

The 32,838-square-foot Beebe Building dates  to 1899 and has at various times in its history been home to a drugstore, mortuary, furniture store, hotel and cafe in New Richmond, Wis. Submitted photo

The New Richmond City Council held its regular monthly meeting Monday night, Aug. 9. 

Here is what you need to know:

  1. The people’s house is open to the people again

Council members approved a policy that makes the Council Chambers and a small conference room in the basement of the Civic Center available for use by outside organizations and groups during regular business hours.

The city encourages other government entities, nonprofit organizations that directly affect the welfare or betterment of the community, local businesses and neighborhood associations to consider reserving a space at the Civic Center. 

Meetings or activities that are commercial (sales or promotions), political, religious, or personal (e.g. birthday party, coffee group, crafts, etc.) in nature will not be considered appropriate uses of the space.

After-hours reservations by outside organizations will be allowed only if city staff are otherwise involved in the event as part of their normal job duties. 

There is no charge to use the facilities. Reservations must be made a minimum of one week in advance and require the completion of a release of liability form. 

Official city business remains the priority, which could cause an outside group's reservation to be canceled with short notice.

The city maintains the right to decline any reservation request.

  1. $3,375,000 in bonds issued

General obligation bonds were purchased by Piper Sandler & Co., Minneapolis, at a true interest rate of 1.26% amortized over a 15-year term. The terms of the bid will afford the city a savings of $100,000 in interest over the life of the bond. 

The bonds were issued for the public purpose of financing street improvement projects not to exceed $1,035,000, water system projects not to exceed $185,000, sewer and stormwater system projects not to exceed $390,000, a police building not to exceed $785,000 and $1,230,000 for refunding existing outstanding general obligations of the City.

  1. Assessment finds Beebe Building hazardous but typical 

“It was a pretty typical result of the inspection in my opinion. I have seen buildings where there’s a lot more asbestos than in this building,” said SEH representative John Guhl.

Based on the results of Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc.’s Phase I Environmental Site Assessment of the Beebe Building completed in March, an Asbestos Inspection and Hazardous Materials Assessment  and Phase II Environmental Site Assessment were required and completed in July. 

Inspectors identified asbestos primarily in boiler and pipe insulation along with floor tile, floor sheeting, drywall joint compound, and roofing putty.

The Hazardous Materials Assessment identified fluorescent light bulbs, parts of the building mechanical and electrical systems, and containers of various paints and other chemicals.

Six underground storage tanks along with evidence of past auto repair and coal storage  identified on site during the Phase I ESA were further explored during Phase II. Soil borings were analyzed for volatile organic compounds, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and lead. Several hydrocarbons as well as total lead were detected in one or more soil samples, “but no exceedances of any existing residual contaminant levels were identified for any of the parameters detected in site soils.” 

According to the SEH report, “a number of items will need to be addressed during the demolition of the building, though none are unexpected given the age and history of the site.”

It will be the responsibility of the demolition contractor to review and confirm SEH’s findings and remove and dispose of the items properly.

  1. Fire chief debacle leads to reforms 

Following four months of legal wrangling that saw the mayor bring charges against the fire chief, the chief placed on leave, then reinstated but not as chief, the council approved Ordinance 560 which essentially clarifies that the New Richmond Fire and Rescue Department is a department of the city and will operate like other departments and that all Fire Department compensated personnel are considered city employees.

The ordinance makes clear that the council will oversee the budget and allocation of any funds having to do with the department with input from the Fire Board. All compensated personnel are subject to city employment policies. 

The chief is responsible for appointing firefighters and officers subject to the approval of the Police and Fire Commission. See a draft of the ordinance here: Ordinance 560  

  1. Council delays making Riley Avenue one way

Council members declined to act on a recommendation from staff and the School District to make Riley Avenue one way going north. 

In an effort to alleviate some of the congestion caused by cross-traffic from buses, automobiles, and pedestrians at Riley and East Eighth Street, a portion of Riley between East Eighth and East Ninth will be eliminated as part of the East Eighth Street construction project. 

City and district staff believe making Riley Avenue a one-way street from East 11th Street north to East Ninth Street will make automobile and pedestrian traffic safer, especially in times when student drop-off or pick-up is occurring.

The council is scheduled to review the recommendation again at its Aug. 23 work session after hearing from residents at a neighborhood meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday,  Aug. 17, in the Council Chambers.

Quick hits

  • The City Council approved a bid from RESCO for the purchase of two three-phase transformers for a cost of $27,286.

  • Council members approved a contract with CWS Security in the amount of $8,943.05 for the purchase and installation of a video security camera system for the New Richmond Fire Station.

  • The city’s 2020 Audit Report by Baker Tilly is available at City of New Richmond 2020 Auditor's Report

Tom Lindfors is a western Wisconsin freelance journalist and former Star-Observer reporter. Contact him at tom@lindforsphoto.com.

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