The stairs to the Cascade Falls have been closed since November due to structural damage to the building next door.

“I understand that the business owners cannot have the staircase closed. This is a very large problem that not only affects me, my building, but also affects the sidewalk, the street, the adjoining buildings and tourism, and the list just keeps going on,” said Milk House owner Lisa Erickson.

At the Osceola Village Board meeting in May, Erickson gave a presentation about her properties at 101, 103 and 105 Cascade Street that have been closed since November, 2021. Structural concerns caused  the Village to also close the staircase to Cascade Falls. The staircase remains closed along with Erickson’s adjacent properties due to safety concerns.

Erickson  spoke to the board about the current status, the challenges she is facing and what options are available to resolve the issue.

Erickson walked the board through a bird’s eye view presentation of the property. She gave a brief history the Milk House, talked about the incident that caused the closure of both her business and the staircase and she spoke about potential future plans for the property.

In addition to the buildings Erickson owns an additional 5 feet underneath PY’s. 

“Which makes this awkward and strange. But that’s just the way it is. The property line also sits only 12 feet from the stairs that go down to the waterfall,” she explained.

“On Nov. 4, two weeks after the grand opening of the Milk House we discovered a main water pipe head broke and washed out the South side of the building by the waterfall, separating the building from the foundation.”

“The water pipe broke in a part of the foundation that is actually hidden in between the sidewalk and the wall in the building,” she explained. “So there was no access to it, we would have never found it. It doesn’t matter who owned the building, it was inevitably going to happen and it compromised the whole entire foundation.” 

Following the incident Erickson had the water, sewer and gas disconnected and the building has remained vacant.

Next, Erickson showed an image of where the foundation is crumbling. 

Erickson explained that in the 1970s more support was added to the building. “this actually did more harm over time.  Then with the recent water damage the foundation just couldn’t hold it,” she explained. 

“I want you guys to know that I’m in there all the time, checking, moving, trying to figure things out and nothing has moved inside the building. There is movement on the outside of the foundation which continues to sink, but is stabilized.

“So, what now?” she asked. “I don’t have many options.” Erickson explained that the engineers have determined that the building must come down. 

“It is built with balloon framing,” she said. “Those of you that aren’t familiar with it is basically they framed the entire building with telephone polls that run from the bottom of the foundation all the way up to the top and all the way around the building. That’s how they used to build things.”

“So what happens is when the building shifts, it’s like a toothpick. You twist it and it just snaps. So that is one of the reasons why we cannot save the building. So I have no options but to tear down,” she said.

“But we’re stuck,” said Erickson. “And the reason we are stuck with this site is because it obviously is very challenging. Every contractor that we have had come and look at the issue has shared with us that you cannot take this down and do nothing and let it sit.”

“You have to rebuild or you have to bring in thousands and thousands of yards of retaining dirt or materials to secure the site,” she explained.

This site has been referred to as a cornerstone of the block and without a plan it could compromise not only you know the block but the sidewalk, the state highway, PY’s and the Department of Natural Resources would be concerned for things that could happen and contaminate the waterway, which leads to the St. Croix River.”

“The building age makes it difficult, and then again there’s access. We have state highway right out front and limited access that has to go through PY’s, which our own backyard back there on property. It’s not an easy project. There are a lot of complications.”

Before opening the floor to questions from the board, Erickson stated that the main thing that she needed them to know is that she is working diligently to try to solve this and to figure this out. “We have talked to many different engineers, we had GeoTech analysts come, and I am regularly talking with my insurance.

“My insurance is limited even though I took out full replacement insurance, it was either processed incorrectly or it was negligently processed and I am grossly underinsured. The estimates for detailing this coming in at $425,000 anywhere from $375,000 to $425,000 and my insurance is $400,000.”

“To say that I need help or additional funding is an understatement. I can’t do this. I can’t take it down and rebuild or put in backfill.”

In talking with engineers and companies about backfilling to secure the sight, Erickson explained that she received estimates that would be upward of $1 million as opposed to the rebuild cost which has come in anywhere from $1.1 million to almost $3 million for rebuild. 

“So this puts me in a serious pinch,” she said. “I am working diligently with the insurance to try to solve this problem.”

Overall, there was genuine concern and support for Erickson. Village trustee Van Burch acknowledged that his heart was broken for her. “This isn’t anyone’s fault.” he said. “No one did anything wrong. It is an old building and anything can happen,” he said. “What do you need from us?”

Erickson said that she was asking for help from the board for creative solutions to problem solve.

President Buberl asked for clarification on an estimated timeline. 

Erickson stated that the project would take approximately 11 months from demolition to rebuild if everything goes perfectly.

Following the presentation, board members asked additional questions about available funding, insurance and project details and how the board and community can help.

President Buberl said, “This is not just one person’s problem. It is a town problem and we would like to help see you through. It will take steps and it will take time,” he said.

Village administrator Ben Krumenauer commented that there is no short-term solution, public or private, but suggested that there could be certain state and federal grants, programs and resources that could available.

Ultimately it was decided that that the Village would create a partnership with Erickson to help her navigate these challenges. It was determined that a subcommittee would be established to further research and understand options. The purpose of the subcommittee is to develop a team of people that will be educated, informed and communicate plans as they develop.

Three Village trustees showed interest is being part of the subcommittee.

The staircase is closed but Krumenauer wants the public to know that the waterfall is open. There are pamphlets available at the Village Hall to show access points to the waterfall.

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