Neighbors claim rude awakening from early morning demolition
By Brandi Makuski
Residents within earshot of the 1900 block of Briggs St. received a rude awakening on January 4, as the demolition of a home there began at 6:30 AM.
Area homeowners turned to the Old Main Neighborhood Association- a kind of neighborhood watch group that works cooperatively with the university, city and off-campus college students- to address the problem.
OMNA leadership fired off a letter to the city, the common council and the university complaining about the unexpected house-razing, which they say began before the sun came up and without prior notification.
“On Monday, January 4 at 6:30 AM, campus neighbors were awakened to the sounds of chain saws [and] trees crashing down on to the sidewalk and street, with no municipal oversight to ensure public safety,” the letter read in part. “A few hours later, heavy equipment began the demolition of the house on 1916 Briggs Street, without sidewalk or street barricades”.
Mayor Mike Wiza said the city “was aware” the house was scheduled for razing, but not the date it had been scheduled, which was not a requirement of the demolition. He also said safety measures taken are up to the contractors performing the work, and not the city.
The OMNA letter goes on to list several concerns about the demolition, which include the lack of notice for neighbors, traffic impacts caused by the heavy equipment used in the demolition and environmental concerns relating to asbestos and lead paint from the home.
“The OMNA board of directors are dismayed and bewildered at the lack of communication from UWSP administrators in this matter,” the letter read. “This situation could have been avoided if UWSP administrators would have communicated their demolition plan of action with city administrators and the citizens of Stevens Point.”
Carl Rasmussen, UW-Stevens Point director of facilities planning, said as the university was not required to provide that information, his office didn’t make it a priority.
“There was no subterfuge or scheming,” Rasmussen said. “If I could turn back the clock I’d do it differently, we would have included them. I apologized to them, I had no control over the chainsaws showing up at 6:30 AM, and I humbly apologized.”
The property in question, 1916 Briggs St., is one of nine properties owned by UWSP along the street, with most utilized as student rentals. The home was razed because it was less expensive than addressing structural deficiencies, Rasmussen said.
The city notified the university last July of several safety deficiencies- to include visible problems with the chimney, back porch and foundation- which, according to Rasmussen, would have cost almost as much as the home’s value to repair. The home was assessed at $51,800 in 2012; Rasmussen said the repairs would have cost at least $35,000.
“The rule of thumb is, generally, don’t invest more than 50 percent of the value,” he said. “So it wasn’t economically viable.”
Rasmussen said three other university- owned properties on Briggs also received notices for structural deficiencies, but those were repaired.
Acquiring the lots on Briggs St. was a part of the college’s master plan to expand its boundaries, he added, but the school does not plan to build on that property anytime soon until it can “consolidate additional parcels, or a higher use comes up”.