Mason City council approves settlement agreement on structural failure of former downtown building

MASON CITY — The City Council in Mason City last night approved a settlement agreement negotiated by the city relating to the costs associated with the structural failure of the former Letts, Spencer and Smith Company building that was recently torn down.

A significant portion of the parapet on the east side of the building collapsed in June 2021, causing the city to have to close lanes of traffic on State Highway 122 and US Highway 65, as well as sidewalks adjacent to the building.

City Administrator Aaron Burnett says the city incurred over $65,000 in costs related to traffic control and structural evaluation of the building. He says as part of the settlement, the city will receive $30,000 and release all claims against the Cincinnati Insurance Company and the owner at the time of the incident, Highway 18 LLC.  “Obviously the city has a lot of activities like traffic control and we undertake a lot of that. The frustrating part about this was the length of time. If you remember back to the amount of time that we had our highways impacted with traffic control and it really created an unsafe situation.”

Burnett says while the settlement will not cover all the costs, it will cover a portion of the costs and is the best outcome to resolve the issue without continuing legal costs and risking a potential ruling not in the city’s favor.  “In a perfect world, I think that it would be great to recover the full costs, but much like any settlement, this will at least close the books, we will no longer have legal costs in pursuing this, and we’ll also be able to recoup a little bit less than half. I think that’s it’s a fair settlement to close this chapter and move on.”

Burnett was asked how it can be justified that the city not receive the full $65,000 of costs incurred.  “The argument that has been made is that the city never needed to close the road. I’ll leave it at that.”

The council approved the settlement on a unanimous vote.