Burned business still in rubble, attracting rats five months aft - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Burned business still in rubble, attracting rats five months after fire

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Charred piles of rubble still sit at the site of the Prairie du Chien, Wis. Slumberland that burned down more than five months ago Charred piles of rubble still sit at the site of the Prairie du Chien, Wis. Slumberland that burned down more than five months ago

More than five months after a fire, the charred remains of one area business still sit in a pile of rubble, which some neighbors say is attracting rats and skunks.

In mid-April, a fire destroyed the Slumberland in Prairie du Chien, Wis., just across the Mississippi River from Marquette. The business was part of Blackhawk Junction Mall, owned by Tom Gialamas.

Craig Boone owns a house across the street from the site of the old Slumberland and said he and neighbors are sick of the mess.

"Want it cleaned up, you know," he said Monday. "It's been here for, what, six months? You know, it's a mess for six months, and it ain't getting cleaned up yet, so who knows if it's going to be another six months?"

City administrator Aaron Kramer wants the debris gone, too.

"We did send an abatement notice (to Gialamas) first part of September, saying, 'You've got to clean it up, and you've got so many days,'" Kramer said. "Unfortunately, the owner of the property refused to accept the letter, so we sent another abatement notice last week to a different address, which we hope he responds to."

The abatement notice, signed by Prairie du Chien police chief Chad Abram, states, "if the debris is not removed within 10 days of receipt of this letter, I shall so report such fact to the Mayor of the City of Prairie du Chien and request that the Mayor direct the City Attorney to commence an action in Crawford County Circuit Court to compel you to abate the public nuisance above referenced."

Kramer said the city could then start fining Gialamas more than $100 per each day the debris remains.

The Crawford County Public Health Department also sent Gialamas a letter, dated Sept. 5, in which it notified Gialamas it has, "received complaints regarding varmints including skunks and rats on your property, Blackhawk Junction. The City of Prairie du Chien Fire Department, Utility Workers, and residents have reported these animals."

The letter goes on to state, "The complaints also include the issue of the fire debris not being cleaned up in a timely manner."

Gialamas responded to this letter.

In a reply dated Sept. 9, he said the public health department's letter "is the first notice we have received regarding the vermin problem at Blackhawk Junction. We understand and appreciate this is a health risk to employees, workers, and customers who frequent the mall."

He said a plan to deal with the critters is in motion.

"In regard to the abatement of fire debris," he went on to write, "we are working diligently with our insurance and construction companies."

On Monday, a project manager with Gialamas' company Blackhawk Junction LLC spoke via phone with KWWL. The man, Patrick Komppa, said the company contracted an exterminator earlier this month, who set traps for the animals throughout the charred property.

In addition, he said, Blackhawk Junction LLC has finally signed contracts with the construction company that will be conducting the demolition work.

"The insurance company was being very difficult with us, and we had to work out a lot with the insurance company and work a lot out with the construction company," Komppa said.

Regarding a start date for the demolition, he said, "Within the next two weeks, it will be taken care of."

Kramer, however, said the company has made that promise before. He showed KWWL the front page of a Prairie du Chien Courier Press newspaper from Aug. 13, in which an article entitled, "Businesses still waiting for cleanup of Slumberland ruins" states, "Rob Dowd, owner of Slumberland Furniture, affirmed Friday that he hoped tear down would start this week. As of Wednesday morning, no demolition had begun at the site."

That was nearly two months ago.

Then, in Gialamas' Sept. 5 letter to the Crawford County Public Health Department, Gialamas states, "We are nearing the end of discussions with the insurance adjustor and construction companies and will have a definite start date for the demolition and clean up of the uninhabitable portion of the mall within the next one to two weeks."

That was three weeks ago.

Kramer said the city's building inspector informed him Monday Gialamas' company does not yet have a demolition permit, which it needs in order to legally tear down the Slumberland debris.

Komppa, however, said now that an agreement has been reached with insurance and construction companies, the work can get under way.

As for the future of Blackhawk Junction mall, "There is a plan to rebuild," Komppa said. "There is a future for the site."

He declined to specify exactly what that plan is.

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