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  • Mesabi Tribune

    Lawsuit against Eveleth schools demolition thrown out


    26 days ago

    EVELETH—A lawsuit seeking to stop the abatement and demolition of the Eveleth school buildings was thrown out last Friday, Rock Ridge Superintendent Noel Schmidt told the School Board Monday night.

    Plaintiff Richard Klabechek filed the lawsuit on March 18 seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) based on the alleged historical value and status of the buildings under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.

    A Sixth District Court judge issued the TRO on March 20 and arguments were heard via Zoom at an April 11 hearing, at which time the matter was taken under advisement.

    On Friday, the judge’s order to deny the temporary injunction and vacate the March 20 TRO was handed down.

    Based on the decision against Klabechek, Schmidt said the district is now moving forward with asbestos abatement at the Eveleth schools. Work at the North Star Elementary (the former Franklin Elementary) will begin after the school year ends.

    Abatement is expected to take 29 weeks. That will be followed by 30 weeks of demolition.

    Klabechek of Anoka County contended the schools are historical resources under MERA and must be protected from destruction.

    The defendants argued the buildings are not historical resources and that it is in the best interest of the community to allow the planned demolition of the buildings to proceed.

    In court documents, Klabechek argued the potential harm to him lies in the planned destruction of the buildings, noting their historical significance. “Yet, he does not specify that significance in any detail. Plaintiff Klabechek mentions neither a significant person, or persons, who attended either school, nor a significant architectural style or period that the buildings showcase, nor a cultural component to those schools that should be preserved,’’ Judge Shawn L. Pearson’s order stated.

    While the latest lawsuit was dismissed quickly, the district has still suffered a financial burden from this and other lawsuits filed regarding building demolition in Virginia, Gilbert and Eveleth.

    Schmidt said the cost to the district in the last few years has been $83,000, which does not include Klabechek’s lawsuit.

    As far as the additional costs, the superintendent said he will be calculating those and it will be discussed at a later date.

    Schmidt told the board he knows the lawsuits are frustrating to the board, because the district hasn’t lost any of them (eight or nine). “We have less money for the classroom and teachers then. I wish people would stop and they would trust the School Board. You are doing things right and that’s why you continue to prevail.’’

    Regarding the Franklin building, a building closing has been set for May 16 at 5 p.m. Students will leave the building for the school year at the end of May.

    The board also heard a presentation from Ideal Energies regarding the “Solar for Schools’’ program and putting solar panels on the roof of Laurentian Elementary in Eveleth. The board voted 5-1 plus one abstention by Nicole Culbert-Dahl. Board member Polly Sorcan voted against. Installing and using the solar panels is expected to be a significant savings for the district.

    The board voted 4-1 plus two abstentions to remove membership of Rock Ridge from the Northland Learning Center. Sorcan voted against, while Culbert-Dahl and Lisa Westby abstained.

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