BRITT | The city of Britt likely won’t pursue legal action against Mason City-based asbestos and mold removal contractor Bergo Environmental Enterprises.
The decision comes after the city council sought a second opinion from longtime Forest City attorney Steven Bakke about what it says was a costly mistake made by Bergo this summer.
“While he does feel that we have recourse to go after Bergo for compensation, his recommendation is that we don’t have enough money lost to make it worth doing so,” said Mayor Ryan Arndorfer during the city council's Nov. 7 meeting.
This summer, the city of Britt hired Jeff Bergo, owner of Bergo Environmental Enterprises in Mason City, to test and remove asbestos for $970 and $1,675, respectively, at the former motel and greenhouse property along U.S. Highway 18 in preparation for a new commercial park.
After Bergo notified the city that the asbestos had been removed from the site, Bill Deibler Excavating of Garner began the demolition of the building and the removal of trees on the site, but progress on the demolition was halted in July after officials with the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement found asbestos on the site following its visit during the city’s hosting of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) on July 25.
According to a letter from Bakke to the City of Britt dated Oct. 23, the city paid $21,690 for the asbestos removal, the testing and the landfill.
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The city also paid ECCO Midwest Inc. of Cedar Rapids $45,550 to remove the asbestos-contaminated debris in August, so it could continue work on the nine-lot commercial park.
In his letter, Bakke said there are two issues with suing Bergo. The first is there’s no written contract outlining the terms and conditions for the work, and the second is the legal expense.
The contract for asbestos removal between the City of Britt and Bergo was made through oral and email communications.
“The existence of the Contract is not the issue, the terms of the Contract will be the issue including to what extent should Bergo have investigated this building,” Bakke’s letter said. “If Bergo was under the impression he was only supposed to do a limited amount, that obviously become his defense. Your position is you hired Bergo to complete the entire investigation as to the asbestos.”
Bakke said in speaking with attorneys at Ahlers & Cooney Law Firm in Des Moines, a firm who has tried two asbestos cases in the past year, he learned that cases are not “economically feasible unless you have at least $100,000 in damages.”
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“It would appear even though I think you would have a good case, I’m not sure it is economically feasible to pursue,” the letter said.
The city council didn’t take any action regarding the legal opinion.
Also during the Nov. 7 meeting, the Britt City Council:
- The council unanimously approved the payment of $11,350.62 to Bill Deibler Excavating, which is for the remaining half of his demolition bill as well as tree removal.
- The council approved sending Britt Police Officers Mark Anderson and Cody Schutjer to academy. Anderson will attend a nine-week academy costing $7,250 from March to May, and Schutjer will attend a 15 1/2-week academy for $8,155 from January to April. The officers were hired in September and October, respectively, to fill vacancies.
- Arndorfer notified the council that the sign replacement at the corner of Main Avenue and Highway 18 is scheduled to be done in mid-November.
- The council determined a committee, including two council members, to interview the city’s four applicants for city administrator/clerk on Saturday, Nov. 11. Arndorfer said it was his hope to have finalists interview with the full council on Nov. 21.