WALL WOES: Bakery Faced With Expensive Problem

A dangerous eye sore has Webster City wondering who should pay for its removal.

Fuhs Pastry Shop is a place that has changed little in the 40 years that Tom and Shirley Fuhs have owned it.  The old mixer still churns out delights that slide into the turn of the century display cases.

The only change anyone here can remember is the adjoining building that was torn down ten years ago, and its interior wall that was left behind–a wall which could change everything.

“This is not the outside wall of the Fuhs building.”

Attorney, Pat Chambers, says the Fuhs`s shouldn`t be on the hook for the $25,000 worth of repairs the wall needs.

The city disagrees. The other building was foreclosed on and when that happened, state law says its owners gave up their ‘coproprietor`s right in common’ to the wall.

“I think this is a cost of doing business,” says city manager, Ed Sadler. “You can`t expect to own a building for several decades and not put money into it.”

The city`s stance isn`t popular..

“It`s wrong,” says business owner, Susan Erickson. “I don’t think that’s (the Fuhs’s) financial liability at all.  I think the city should fix it.”

And the city’s safety concerns are disputed.

“There’s a fellow who’s been doing bricks around here for 50 years,” says Mark Gillette of Webster City. “He said that thing won’t fall for another 100 years.”

But a city-funded engineering analysis says otherwise…predicting collapse and calling it dangerous to the public.

The city has offered the Fuhs`s a low interest loan to pay for repairs.  They aren’t interested.

“Shirley and Tom Fuhs are in their 70s,” Chambers says, “they’d like to save their money for their retirement. They’d like to not put that kind of money into a wall that they’ll never get back out.”

Gillette is the current owner of the empty lot. He bought it for just $400. Maybe he`d help pay for the repairs?

“It’s easy to spend somebody else’s money, isn’t it?” he laughs.  “No, I wouldn’t have bought the lot if I had any liability in this.”

And so it sits;a very old business with a very contemporary problem;`Who`s On the Hook?’ And can there be a compromise reached over Webster City`s Not-so-Great Wall?

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