Fairmount house may be demolished

This house in Fairmount, N.D., has visible exterior damage including peeling or broken shingles, siding and gutters. Signs warning against trespassing are posted at entrances. It may be heading for demolition, but costs and other responsibilities still need to be solidified.

A vacant house in Fairmount, North Dakota, may soon be heading for demolition. Exactly who’s paying for the project hasn’t been solidified.

The house, located at 303 First St. N., is currently owned by Richland County, North Dakota. Foreclosed on in 2018, the house is considered beyond salvageable.

A two-story property, the house has visible exterior damage including peeling or broken shingles, siding and gutters. Signs warning against trespassing are posted at entrances.

“If you live next to that house, you’d be frustrated, too,” said Richland County Commissioner Tim Campbell, a Fairmount resident.

Jon Nelk, Fairmount’s mayor, is neighbor to the dilapidated house. Nelk is willing to contribute $5,000 to the demolition, according to discussion at a Tuesday, Aug. 6 commissioners meeting.

“It is ours, so what are we going to do with it?” Commissioner Nathan Berseth asked.

Richland County can sell the property to Fairmount for $1.

The commissioners also considered the possibility of Richland County contributing $2,000 in addition to Nelk’s $5,000. The county’s contribution would come from money budgeted for such projects.

Demolition is estimated to cost $7,000-$8,000, Campbell said. It’s expected to be done by non-county employees.

Richland County Auditor Leslie Hage and Commissioner Rollie Ehlert expressed concern about setting a precedent. Berseth said he had the same thought, but came back to the question of what was Richland County going to do with the house.

There’s also the question of what would happen if Richland County continued to own the house. Ehlert said he was against the idea of prolonged ownership, but indicated an interest in continuity.

“If we’re going to commit two grand to that city for this one property, then we better be prepared to do it every single time,” Ehlert said.

Berseth said he agreed and has no problem with that policy.

Richland County currently owns three foreclosed properties. In addition to the Fairmount house, there are two in Hankinson, North Dakota. The idea of future foreclosure demolitions had commissioners indicating approval of a $2,000 cap for Richland County’s contribution.

Berseth showed interest in Nelk’s offer.

“It’s a black eye for us, when we own buildings throughout the county, if we have a willing participant (who’s rejected),” Berseth said.

Nelk mentions the house every day, Campbell said. He’s mentioned topics including youth safety, important because Nelk’s nearby house contains one of Fairmount’s two daycare centers.

The situation’s similar to when residents complain about county roads, Campbell said Nelk told him. Complaints continue until the problem’s fixed.

“‘Well, guess what I’m going to do?’” Nelk said, according to Campbell.

Campbell said he can’t argue against Nelk’s points because they’re right. Richland County has to clean up locations including the Fairmount house.

“I just think this is the gentleman that’s going to do it,” Campbell said.

Richland County is currently waiting for a letter from Fairmount saying it wants to purchase the property for $1. The letter should also indicate understanding of the county’s $2,000 contribution. The $2,000 would come upon the completed $1 sale.

“We’ve got to be careful, that we’re not selling to a private individual, but a municipality,” Commissioner Dan Thompson said.

Beyond saying he and the city of Fairmount were interested in a demolition, Nelk declined comment.

“The last thing we should be involved in is property ownership,” Ehlert said.

The next commissioners meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20 at the Richland County Courthouse, 418 Second Ave. N. in Wahpeton.

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