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Cass County votes to demolish rapidly deteriorating Argusville school

School built in 1926 is becoming dangerous with asbestos and mold, while former owners could be assessed to pay for project

071922.N.FF.ARGUSVILLESCHOOL
The Argusville (North Dakota) school is pictured Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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FARGO — Cass County commissioners voted 3-2 Monday, July 18, to seek proposals to demolish the rapidly deteriorating Argusville school, despite a plea to seek a federal grant.

The estimated cost to demolish the structure built in 1926 is roughly $473,000, a figure determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, which could be assessed to its previous owners Jim and Deb Baumler.

Chief Deputy State's Attorney Tracy Peters said the county took over ownership of the building earlier this year after the Baumlers neglected to upgrade or demolish the condemned building.

Peters added there are multiple older school buildings across North Dakota, but a state official at the county board meeting argued the Argusville building is not only dilapidated but a danger with its asbestos, mold and collapsing walls.

There have been reports of individuals going into the building, despite a fence surrounding the structure.

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Jane Kangas, who works for the North Dakota Division of Waste Management, told commissioners they shouldn't wait any longer, citing the building as an immediate danger.

"It's much worse than it was two to three years ago," Kangas said, adding she visited the structure and noted falling bricks and asbestos throughout the building

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State's Attorney Birch Burdick said due to the county's ownership, they would be held liable if anything were to go wrong at the site.

The Baumlers' attorney, Tom George, said they would be willing to pay for liability insurance as he urged the commissioners to wait to see if they could obtain an EPA grant. He also said that it would be a "no brainer" to pay for better securing of the structure.

George argued the time frame for demolition likely wouldn't be that long, but said, of course, the main issue was the estimated cost. He said the Baumlers "didn't want the problem hanging over them forever."

Peters said a final decision would be made in the future by the commissioners.

Nonetheless, she said the couple are "substantial" landowners in the northern part of the county on which the assessment could be made.

Commissioners Chad Peterson, Rick Steen and Jim Kapitan voted for the more immediate demolition, while Commissioners Mary Scherling and Duane Breitling were opposed.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY COMMISSION
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