City of Negaunee in dispute with former Sundberg Building owner

NEGAUNEE — The Sundberg Building may seem a distant memory for some, but the structure that formerly stood at 521 Iron St. in Negaunee remains fresh in the minds of city officials as they work toward recouping $239,870 — the cost of the building’s 2016 demolition.

The city filed suit on May 3 in Marquette County Circuit Court against property owners Ann Kantola and Jim Kantola, according to documents obtained from a Mining Journal Freedom of Information Act request.

Jim Kantola, who has served on the Negaunee City Council since November 2016, abstained from the council’s unanimous March 8 vote to proceed with the lawsuit, and was not involved in a closed session held prior to that vote.

The city attorney has had contact with the attorney representing the Kantolas, and a response to the complaint is expected to be filed before the end of June.

City Manager Nate Heffron said city officials would like to see an amicable resolution to the situation.

“In working with this council in the short time that I have worked with them, (I know) they chose the option that they felt was appropriate to try to recoup some of the funds that were expended,” Heffron said. “They are taking the correct and responsible action that any organization that is charged with keeping an eye on the expenditure of public funds would.”

The three-story brick and sandstone structure, which was purchased by Ann Kantola on Jan. 9, 2003 for $2,000, had been a source of contention between the owners and the city since the partial collapse of the roof and west wall in 2010.

The Marquette County Building Codes Department condemned the building in December 2015 after it conducted an inspection. Up to that point, much of the building’s perimeter had been surrounded by a fence.

The Kantolas applied for a variance on the condemnation order from the Marquette County Building Codes Board of Appeals in February 2016 — at which time plans were publicly unveiled to reuse the building as a brewery.

The variance request was ultimately denied on Sept. 6, 2016, which was followed by Marquette County Building Codes Manager Paul Knox issuing a notice instructing the city to make the structure safe or demolish it immediately.

The city council subsequently accepted a bid not to exceed $275,000 from Upper Peninsula Abatement Company Inc. at a special meeting on Oct. 20, 2016.

The demolition went forward on November 21, 2016 after a request for an injunction filed by the Kantolas was denied in Marquette County Circuit Court.

According to the city attorney, a pretrial hearing will likely be scheduled after the defendants have filed a formal response to the complaint.

Neither the Kantolas nor their attorney could be reached for comment before press time.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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