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Heavy snow destroys old building, vehicles, and boats inside

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Heavy snow caused the peak of an historic 105- by 55-foot pole building in Pequot Lakes to come cascading down on the two automobiles parked inside.

The two vehicles, one red Chevy Silverado owned by Bill Offutt, the second a silver Trailblazer owned by property owner Taffie Goerges, were totalled. Inside the structure were also two boats and miscellaneous items.

The collapse made virtually no sound, so exactly when it happened is not absolutely known. Goerges believes it happened early morning Sunday, March 10.

“It was like two in the morning, and my son’s dog started barking. I rolled open the window and told it to be quiet. His insulated dog kennel was out by that building. I’m sure it probably startled him, because he was right by it,” Goerges said. “What probably happened is because we had so much snow, when it went down that snow probably muffled everything.”

She and Offutt were surprised to find that the collapse had actually caused the front door of the building and other debris to be blown outward into the yard. When Offutt told her about the collapse in the morning, she thought he was joking.

It took only three days for the debris to be completely cleared and the boats and vehicles removed, after which only the walls remained. Though the initial collapse was silent, what happened while removing one boat was not.

“Once my boat came out, the whole rest of the ceiling gave out,” Goerges said. “The nose of the boat came out as the rest of the ceiling caved. It was creaking and grinding the whole time.”

“Luckily we had the building insured,” Goerges said. “My insurance agent told me he had four buildings that had caved in from the snow so far this year. So it’s not just Pequot. There are others going down.”

The building was built by William A. Mimm Sr. of Pequot Lakes for raising turkeys at Mimm’s Turkey Ranch. Mimm began the business around 1955 and the building was built shortly after. His son, Bill Mimm Jr., said the building was used as a brooder house for raising young turkeys. The animals would be placed inside cardboard rings with bedding of sawdust and wood chips.

“I was a kid when they built it, and they doubled the structure of that building,” Mimm Jr. said. “My dad was pretty proud and insisted they put in double supports, and his was the only one still standing (compared to neighboring buildings).”

Mimm Jr. can remember when snow used to build up on the old building, they would turn on the heaters inside to warm up the metal roof to cause the snow to melt and slide off the ends.

“You could watch the peak of the roof raise up and see how much stress was up there,” he said.

Brad Myers, current owner of Meadow Ridge Farm, worked at Mimm’s around the age of 12 and even acquired his first turkeys from the ranch.

“He gave me the crippled ones and I raised them up and lo and behold they started laying eggs and hatched out some turkeys that were in pretty good shape,” Myers said.

When he worked at Mimm’s the pole building had 10 rings with 1,000 poults, or baby turkeys, in each ring.

“I took care of them up until the time they were ready to ship out, and I helped load turkeys when they got big,” Myers said.

By 1973, those numbers had increased even more. According to “A look at the people who bring you Thanksgiving,” a Nov. 21 Lake Country Echo article by Steve Kohls, the farm was raising 24,000 birds annually and only 10 percent of those birds were sold in local trade; the rest were shipped elsewhere.

The ranch was sold in the late 1980s. Goerges later acquired the property and even continued operating it as a turkey farm for a year before deciding to close it due to other work responsibilities.

At the time of the collapse, no living thing lived or was stored in the building, and for that, Goerges is thankful.

“It just makes you realize what a small casualty something like this is compared to a lot of people experiencing storms on a larger scale,” she said. “I actually feel quite lucky that no one was hurt and no animals were harmed.”

The collapse caused the total loss of two vehicles and damaged the windshield, dashboard, steering wheel, railing and trailer on one boat inside, though the other boat suffered little or no damage. Other pieces of personal property were mixed in with the collapsed debris and in the process of the excavation were disposed of. The vehicles, boats and property were covered by insurance.

“I will be replacing it with a pole barn structure. It won’t be as big, now that the business isn’t there,” Goerges said. “I definitely will downsize, that was a huge building. I didn’t realize how big the building was until the roof was off.”