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Kirkbride mothballing costs estimated at nearly $4 million

Reports indicate it will cost $4 million dollars to keep Kirkbride from deteriorating. FORUM NEWS SERVICE

To keep the Kirkbride Building from deteriorating any further over the next decade, Fergus Falls would need to spend nearly $4 million to mothball it, according to a study presented to the City Council on Monday.

The study on how to mothball the home of the Regional Treatment Center — conducted by Stantec Consulting Services — found there were several parts of the the building in serious need of repair.

The biggest concern in mothballing is keeping water out and humidity levels low, Stantec engineer Philip Caswell said.

The level where humidity becomes a concern is when it is higher than 60 percent, he said.

One way of reducing that is to monitor humidity and add dehumidifiers as necessary.

While the roof, which has areas where shingles are in disrepair and will need to be replaced, has long been a concern, the largest projected cost will actually be to fix-up the brick and lime walls.

“Perhaps the single greatest threat to the long-term well-being of the buildings is the freeze-thaw damage being done to the exterior brick walls,” the report states.

The coat of lead paint put on the bricks has prevented them from drying out fully after they get wet, and when the moisture inside the bricks freezes, it causes damage to the walls, according to the report. However, due to the potentially high lead contamination levels in the paint, the cost of removing it could total $15 million, according to Caswell.

The other option, which is less costly but still expensive, is for a clear sealant to be placed on areas where the bricks have deteriorated the most, but this will still cost nearly $1.8 million and would account for less than 10 percent of the building.

While some roofs can be repaired by simply replacing shingles in problem areas, others may eventually need to be replaced, the report found. The total projected cost for the roof work comes to more than $800,000.

Windows will also need to be boarded up, to present bats, rats and other pests from getting inside, according to the report.

The report recommends having remote electronic monitoring of the building such as glass break detector and indoor humidity

The council voted to accept the report and forward it to State Historic Preservation Office for review. An additional work session was scheduled for Dec. 21 and the plan is for a preservation office representative to be in attendance.

Before the city can move forward on any work on the Kirkbride, it will need approval from the preservation office, City Engineer Dan Edwards said. The city has about $4 million in state grant funds that would be used for the mothballing process.

Comparatively, the cost of demolishing the building comes to $5.4 million, according to Stantec documents and Edwards. But that figure is deceptively low according to Edwards, as it doesn’t include the cost of abatement or potential environmental issues such as lead paint, which could more than triple the cost of tearing the building down.

The city will be working to get a more exact figure, Edwards said.

Getting the figure for the demolition costs is important, because it is something the state Legislature likely will ask for if the city requires more funds, Ward 4 council member Anthony Hicks said.

He added that showing the state that preservation is much cheaper than demolition will help the city’s case.

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