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Asbestos Is Latest Oaks Hotel Problem

July 29, 2010, 5:52 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Asbestos Is Latest Oaks Hotel Problem
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The Oaks Hotel was once a hot bed of Sioux Falls activity.  And in June, plans were announced to rejuvenate the area where the vacant hotel sits. But today, there's little progress.

It was November 2008 when the doors of the Oaks Hotel were closed for good, sort of.  Since then, the building has been broken into, vandalized and been used by the homeless for a place to stay. And while there are plans to demolish the building, those have already been delayed.

Friday will mark one month since the big announcement that the Oaks Hotel was coming down, making way for progress.

"There will be a couple of hotels, bar, restaurant and convention space and a water park of some sort," David Graham said on June 30, 2010.

On that day, plans were revealed saying the wrecking ball would hit the Oaks by July 15. Two weeks after that date, the Oaks still stands.

"It's trashed. It's pretty much trashed. They've got contractors out there salvaging whatever materials that are in there," Ron Bell of Sioux Falls Building Services said.

The lack of progress is simple to explain. A 2009 study of the building revealed asbestos. By state law, all of the asbestos in the building must be removed before the building can be torn down. And the crew that's been hired to demolish the old Oaks is just waiting for that asbestos to be cleaned out.

"If all intentions were that they were going to tear it down, once they saw there was asbestos inside the building, at anytime, they could have had an asbestos contractor in there," Bell said.

The latest set back joins a long list of problems noted at the Oaks since 2008. In August of that year, inspections revealed a number of violations and health code issues. The owner, David Graham, was given a six page letter that September detailing all of the problems and was told he had 30 days to correct them. Graham was fined $100 for not responding to the issues in October. The next month, the Oaks closed and Graham paid the fine. But the problems haven't stopped.  Graham didn't notify the city the building was vacant, and the city discovered in 2009 the building was still accessible and was repeatedly broken into.

The owner of the Oaks has been fined by the city five times since it closed. None of those fines have been paid. The city hired a contractor for $2,400 to cover windows and other openings because the owner did not.

"Our biggest challenge was to make sure the building remained secure over this time and with the time that's passed, you've seen how much damage has occurred to the outside where there's broken windows," Bell said.

Graham did not return phone calls Thursday. The city building services office believes that an asbestos removal expert has been hired to work at the Oaks. That work will have to be certified with the state before any demolition starts.

A city report on the Oaks Hotel obtained by KELOLAND News details the violations and other issues.

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