MARSHALL - Lyon County is still assessing the damage caused by a weekend fire at the county highway shop in Cottonwood, but it's clear that it's extensive, Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said. Total damages to the shop building, several vehicles and equipment could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000, although those costs would likely be covered by insurance, Stomberg said Tuesday.
Stomberg updated county commissioners on the fire during the regular meeting of the county board. Neighbors of the highway shop, which is located on the west side of the city of Cottonwood along Lyon County Road 10, reported smoke coming from the building around 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Firefighters were on the scene for a couple of hours, Stomberg said, and there was also a flareup later on Saturday night. There were no injuries, he said, but the damage was "pretty extensive."
The damage included the shop building itself, especially where the ceiling was on fire, and four county vehicles which were damaged or destroyed. Those vehicles included a 2011 dump truck, a 2006 dump truck, a 2004 pickup and a 2002 tractor. A full assessment of damage to tools and other shop equipment wasn't complete yet, Stomberg said.
Stomberg said a fire marshal has been unable to conclusively determine the cause of the fire, but it could have started in one of the trucks. The fire is still under investigation.
Stomberg said an insurance adjuster looked at the shop building on Monday, and a second adjuster will be looking at the shop equipment this week. He estimated the total cost to replace the shop building, vehicles and equipment could be anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a million dollars, but everything was insured.
"Financially for the county, I don't expect this to be an issue," Stomberg said Tuesday.
The main concern for the county, Stomberg said, will be to find replacement snow removal vehicles in case of a weather emergency. One option being considered would be to borrow equipment from another county, he said.
In discussion of the fire, county commissioners debated whether the county shop's location should be changed when it is rebuilt, but no conclusions were reached. Commissioner Steve Ritter also asked whether it would have been possible to notify commissioners of the fire more quickly. Commissioners received an email about the fire over the weekend, but Ritter said he would have also appreciated a phone call.
Commissioners also met in a closed session at the end of Tuesday's meeting, in order to discuss possible improvements for security at the Lyon County Government Center. Minnesota statutes allow for closed-meeting discussion of security measures, if disclosure of the information discussed would compromise public safety or security procedures. Stomberg said Tuesday's meeting was being closed in order to prevent members of the public from using information to get around any security measures that may be put in place at the Government Center.
However, security issues could still come before the board publicly. Any financial decisions related to security measures must be discussed and made during an open meeting, state statutes say.