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Pine River Council discusses safety hazards at Amarilla House

The Pine River City Council heard of safety hazards at the Pine River Amarilla House from building inspector Jeff Melberg.

Melberg said he responded to complaints at the Amarilla House. He presented the results of his inspection to the council at the Feb. 11 regular meeting.

Melberg said the Amarilla House has various safety hazards that could be dangerous in the case of a fire or emergency. Melberg reported the six basement apartments in the building have windows that are too high off the ground and not large enough to meet safety codes because they could not be used as exits in the case of a fire. The hallways do not meet safety requirements for exiting. Some rooms do not have smoke detectors. Some smoke detectors in the building are not in working order and Melberg said some smoke detectors in the building have been there since the 1960s.

“If there was a fire there, there’s no chance,” Melberg said. “Building code specifically requires all sleeping rooms to have at least one full size egress window, smoke detectors. They don’t have them. Some smoke detectors work, some don’t.”

Melberg was seeking approval from the city to send the owners of the Amarilla House a letter requiring them to bring the building up to code by May 1. City Attorney Ted Lundrigan said the city was now required to act on the discovery of the safety hazards. He also said that if the building was not brought up to code it would need to be shut down.

“It is a matter of opinion of our building inspector that it falls short of the code. We give them a chance to comply. If they fail to comply then we bring criminal sanctions against them for doing that. As a safety violation you can go to the next level, which is if it’s a violation of public safety and health then we can, with the power of the city, shut them down. We have to, actually. If there’s any question of danger of life and limb,” Lundrigan said.

To meet city requirements, the Amarilla House has multiple options, one of which is to vacate the rooms that are in violation. If this is the route taken, the city will then do random inspections to be sure that the rooms are not being used as housing.

Once the letter the property owners receive the city’s letter, they will be expected to immediately begin to comply.

“Once they get this notice, we will stop in to make sure nobody is down there. If they are, it is a matter of what we with the city want to do, because it’s going to be a code violation. We have to look at going that route. Once they get served this they will have to move them out of the basement into the upstairs, or make other arrangements until it is done. We can periodically check,” said Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand.

City council member Patty Melby was absent Feb. 11.

In other business, the city:

• Began the legal process for condemnation of the Oxford Oaks out lot to create utility access for future development properties.

• Approved 2014-15 fire contracts with nearby townships and the city of Chickamaw Beach.

• Learned there may be less grant money available for development of the properties on the corner of Highway 371 and Barclay Avenue. The council approved a letter to Minnesota Power for donation of $7,500 for removal of a power pole on the property.

• Approved a request by the Pine River Library Board to reduce the board from seven to five members following the death of one board member and future resignation of another.

Travis Grimler can be reached at Follow him on Facebook.