DNR for old hospital

Commission orders demolition
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, November 7, 2019
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The Columbus old hospital will be demolished.

And it’s going to happen soon.

The Stillwater County Commissioners made the announcement at Tuesday morning’s regular agenda meeting — bringing to an end more than four years worth of debate and speculation regarding whether the building would be remodeled for county office space or destroyed.

The motion passed 2 to 1, with Commissioners Mark Crago and Tyrel Hamilton voting in favor of demolition and Commissioner Dennis Shupak voting against it.

Shupak said he voted against the demolition only because he wanted to see if the county could find a buyer for the building first.

The demolition process will begin as early as Nov. 17.

During the last four years, multiple public meetings have been held regarding the renovation of the old hospital for possible county office space and there had been virtually no expressed public support for doing so.

Specifically, three public hearings with four possible plans to accommodate county office space were held in Absarokee, Columbus and Park City in 2015. Last month, public meetings presenting three possible options were presented in Absarokee, Columbus, Molt, Rapelje, Reed Point and Nye.

In the spring of 2017, approximately 14,000 square feet of asbestos, lead-based paint, mercury and mold was found in the old hospital. Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde shut down the old hospital until those contaminants could be abated, labeling the building a “public nuisance.”

With financial help from a federal Brownsfield grant, the county is in the finishing stages of cleaning the contaminants, as is required by law.

The county is also in the process of having an appraisal done on all of its properties on that block, which include the old hospital, the West Annex and the Meadowlark Assisted Living building. The purpose of the appraisel is to simply find out the value of the properties. Commissioners told the News Wednesday morning that they will ensure that regardless of what decisions are made regarding the properties in the future, the county will ensure that Meadowlark Assisted Living remain onsite.



Tuesday’s demolition announcement was followed by the bid award for the project going to Gairrett Excavation & Trucking, Inc., in Columbus. That company was the lowest bid of seven submitted. The bid was $258,020.



Columbus resident Shirlee Keffer voiced her opposition to the demolition decision, saying the commission had “thrown the old hospital under the bus” and that she believed the building should be saved.

Commissioner Crago countered, first speaking as a contractor and then as a commissioner.

As a contractor, Crago said the “building is a money pit” that needs too much substantial work to even be worth trying to salvage.

“It’s past its usable life,” said Crago.

As a commissioner, Crago said that while some people are attached to the structure, it’s time to move forward.