Raze order filed at old Bermico building
Entities looking at grant opportunities

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

Dec. 16, 2015

 A disassembled truck sits outside the boarded-up Bermico building Tuesday afternoon in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

A soon-to-be completed environmental assessment report could control use of the former Bermico property in West Bend.

The city has filed a raze order with the Washington County Register of Deeds for the buildings at 2100 Northwestern Ave. The deadline for the property owner to object has passed. City and Washington County officials have a draft environmental assessment of the property on their desks waiting for review and changes, which could mean changes for the land’s use.

“The raze order has been filed, the windows are boarded up and the locks have been changed,” West Bend Administrator T.J. Justice said. “The tenants have moved and all equipment is gone.”

However, passersby will see there are vehicles onsite.

The property, declared unsafe by the city, unsanitary and unfit for human habitation, is owned by JBH Investments. Majority owner John Bagley has limited access to the building.

“The owner can enter the building under controlled access as deemed appropriate by the city inspector,” Justice said.

At a recent meeting of the Washington County Site Development Steering Committee, Justice announced a draft environmental assessment report will be part of a pitch for county funding.

The Daily News was denied access to the assessment.

“It’s still in draft form. I haven’t had the chance to even look at it yet,” said Debora Sielski, Washington County Deputy Planning and Parks administrator, who works with the committee. “We (the county and the city) still need to review it and make some possible changes. Once it’s in final form we can release it.”

The committee decides what properties qualify for financial assistance in assessing the cleanup and development of brownfield properties in the county. The funds can be used for environmental assessment, drilling or testing to locate contaminants and a development plan. The next phase would include testing for contaminants on the site. The county funds come from a federal grant and can’t be used for demolition or remediation.

“Our staff is still working on a redevelopment plan,” Justice said.

Bagley has fought a legal battle with the city over his attempts to redevelop the property. He said city officials have thrown as many roadblocks as possible in his way to prevent him from finishing his plans. In the past, Bagley accused city officials of coveting the property so it can be developed the way they want. He said he has spent thousands of dollars on repairs and cleanup. Bagley did not return calls for comment by deadline.

In May, Circuit Court Judge James Muehlbauer dismissed an attempt by the city to raze the building. On July 6, the city posted stop work orders on the property that said the building was unfit for human habitation. Justice said the order was imposed because the city had reason to believe work was done without proper permits. In September, the city filed the new raze order, which calls for the building to be razed and the site left in a “dust-free and erosion-free” condition. If the property owner does not demolish the buildings the city can, and subsequently add that cost to the property’s tax bill.

“It would be premature to say the city could possibly buy the property,” Justice said. “We appreciate that the owner has been cooperative now and we’re hoping a deal can be worked out that’s good for all the parties involved.”

West Bend 7th District Alderman Adam Williquette, representative of the district where the property is, said he could not comment on the issue because of “ongoing litigation.”

Reach reporter Joe VanDeLaarschot at jvan@conleynet.com.