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Erik Burgess, Published November 05 2013

Fargo orders Black Building owners to turn on the heat

FARGO – For the second time this year, the city is ordering repairs at the historic Black Building downtown.

City inspection officials say the heat is not working in the Black Building, 118 Broadway, and that the owners, DTL Properties, must fix the problem within the next four weeks or face a lawsuit from the city.

Owners of the 83-year-old building have been working since at least the summer to replace the old boilers, which were leaking. One of the building owners told The Forum on Tuesday that the heat should be on today.

Last week, Nicholle Fowler, the deputy state boiler inspector, said new boilers are in place and are permitted, but she said they are not running because some final parts need to be installed.

After an inspection on Nov. 1, the city found the heat was still not on in the Black Building.

In September, several tenants told The Forum that persistent issues with the elevators, heating and management are causing some businesses to leave the building. The city sent a notice threatening litigation, and the elevators have since been fixed.

A new letter from the city sent Tuesday morning to the Black Building owners states that by not providing heat, they are violating three mechanical and property maintenance codes: among them, that interior spaces intended for human occupancy need to be heated at a minimum of 68 degrees, and that portable heaters cannot be used to reach that mark.

“In any building, you have to provide heat,” said Jerome Miller, the city’s deputy inspections administrator. “The mechanical code and building code says you’ve got be capable of maintaining (heat) ... right now they are not even capable of maintaining the heat.”

Miller said he expects one of the two boilers to be up and running by today, and the other boiler should be fixed within the next few days.

Lloyd Sampson, one of the building owners, confirmed that the heat will be working today.

“It should’ve been on last week,” Sampson said.

He said “misunderstandings” between the contractor and the city have drawn out the timeline for fixing the boilers.

In its notice, the city also cited the owners for violating part of the international property maintenance code, which states that all mechanical appliances must be “properly installed and maintained in a safe working condition” and “capable of performing the intended function.”

The city gave the Black Building owners until Dec. 6 to complete the installation of the new boiler heating equipment. If the problems aren’t fixed by that time, Miller said the matter will be forwarded to the city attorney.

“Nobody wants to do that and right now, I’m feeling pretty good about it, but we just gotta watch it and keep on top of it,” he said.

Miller said he expects the problems to be resolved within the city’s deadline.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518