Fire cleanup not likely until next month

LINCOLN – The wreckage of a burned out maintenance building probably will not be cleared away until Nov. 1, Alcona County Road Commission Managing Director Jesse Campbell said Wednesday during the road commission’s board meeting. The reason is because several more insurance companies still need to investigate the cause of the fire. One will be representing the company that put a new roof on the 15,000-square-foot building days before the fire broke out.

The county’s insurer so far has listed the cause of the fire as undetermined, Campbell said. Law enforcement authorities have said they do not believe criminal activity was involved.

Meanwhile, Campbell, the road commissioners, staff and crew are trying to fit together the pieces of the insurance puzzle, while at the same time preparing for winter.

No one knows yet exactly how much the insurance company will pay to replace the building, Campbell said. The company already has recreated a three-dimensional computerized drawing of the original building, which was built out of masonry blocks and steel beams. The company will seek three bids for the cost of constructing the same building today. Those bids will be averaged to determine the amount the road commission will receive. Initial reports estimated the damage at over $4 million.

Commissioners Al Scully and Harry Harvey voted to give each road crew member $275 to replace boots, jackets, overalls and gloves they store in lockers for winter weather. That money will come out of $316,000 that will be paid for the contents of the building.

“That’s everything that falls out when you pick up the building and flip it upside down,” Campbell said.

The road crew also will be moving to a large building off Carbide Road, about a half mile from the Alcona Community Schools once contracts are signed, Campbell said. Although the building is not heated, it contains a break room, bathroom and other amenities workers need as well as space for road graders, plows, dump trucks and other equipment.

“We just have to get through winter,” Harvey said.

Once the site in Lincoln is cleared of debris, a new facility could be built in three months, Campbell said. But authorities first have to make sure the site is not contaminated. An old, in-ground fuel storage tank has to be located and checked first, Campbell said.

The commissioners also want to make sure they can add up-to-date improvements, such as a truck washing unit, a welding area, and a grease pit, and have money set aside.

Meanwhile, Campbell said he and others will be prowling the state to see what kinds of buildings other road commissions have built in recent times. The new building also could be heated with a geo-thermal system to reduce costs, or have separate buildings for mechanical services and storage needs, so that if another fire occurred, loss could be reduced.

In other action, the commissioners made a motion allowing Campbell to begin purchasing used equipment to replace items that were lost. He also will order a new dump truck, to replace the $193,000 unit that was burned, and seek bids for one or more three-quarter ton trucks that will be used for plowing.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.