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Elks Building developer says project will meet deadline despite debt, other setbacks

Press Photo by Jennifer McBride The old Elks Building in downtown is seen in this Thursday photo.

Historic Elks Building owner Granville Brinkman said last Friday on-hold renovations would begin again today and the project will be complete by a city-imposed June 30 deadline. However, as of Thursday he had not paid for a permit that would allow work to continue and, according to court records, he is allegedly indebted hundreds of thousands of dollars to contractors, some who have pulled off the job.

Brinkman is the sole proprietor of Dickinson Elks, LLC, which owns the building and is in charge of renovations.

Brinkman purchased the building from the city in 2005 and a 2007 fire gutted it causing delays in the project. The city has given Brinkman five extensions to complete the project with the latest deadline of June 30, according to Press articles.

The city posted a "stop work" order on the downtown building's doors March 9 because Brinkman has not paid $4,227 for a building permit, according to the city.

If the project is not complete by the June 30 deadline, the building could be returned to the city as contract allows, according to a past Press article.

"One of our concerns is if he's not done by the deadline, that there is a provision the city could get the building back unencumbered," City Administrator Shawn Kessel said Wednesday, adding all liens, mortgages and financial encumbrances would have to be satisfied.

If the project is not complete by June 30, Brinkman told The Press March 25 he would ask for another extension, but he said he does not anticipate that being the case.

He said last week that work would begin again today.

The Golden Valley native, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., said primary reasons the project is taking so long is because of unforeseen obstacles, including the fire and "the financial meltdown of the United States, excluding North Dakota."

"Work is ongoing. It's just at a very slow pace right now," he said.

There have allegedly been hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid work, according to Stark County records. Brinkman declined to comment on the overall cost of the project or the number of claims against him or debt incurred.

"We are working with our subcontractors right now on this," Brinkman said, adding he did not know how many.

Among those he allegedly owes is Roger Fischer, owner of Roger Fischer Electric, in Beulah. The one-man operation has a lien against Dickinson Elks, LLC for about $5,700 and pulled off the job after not getting paid, Fischer said. He is among more than a dozen contractors Brinkman has, or continues, to owe, according to claims filed with Stark County.

"It should have been a good job for everybody," Fischer said. "There's no reason it shouldn't have been a successful job for everybody, including the owner."

Fischer said he is glad the city finally stepped up and stopped the work and would like to see the building a vibrant part of downtown.

Robert Gibb and Sons owner Bob Gibb said Wednesday the Fargo company worked on heating, ventilation and air conditioning in the building over the summer. The company has a claim for about $232,000 against Dickinson Elks, LLC, according to court records. Though they stepped off the job, Gibb said he hopes it will work out and the company can finish the work, "But we'll see how it goes."

Kessel, who took a tour of the building with Brinkman last week, said there have been some improvements since the last time he viewed it. He said he will give an update on the project at Monday's City Commission meeting.

"I got a better understanding of the project from his perspective -- what his intentions are and what they are from a construction standpoint," Kessel said of the walk-through.

About 82 to 84 percent of the project is complete, Brinkman said March 25. At a fall public meeting he gave a similar forecast, according to public notices. Brinkman could not be reached Thursday to clear up discrepancies regarding the amount.

The building will include condos, (including one he intends to take, he said), house the law firm Ebeltoft Sickler Kolling Grosz Bouray, PLLC, and the main floor will be a conference center. About 870 square feet of the building is not yet spoken for, Brinkman said.

Besides liens, other legalities include a lawsuit over a contractor allegedly starting the 2007 fire. He said is pursuing that contractor, with a trial beginning in December.

Brinkman, city leaders and those who are losing money on the project all agree on one thing -- the building could be a major asset to downtown Dickinson.

Several downtown neighboring businesses have done amazing renovations and this could only add to that, Kessel said.

"It's got to look good," he said. "If everything does and that doesn't, it's going to stick out."

It could be a very useful building and someone could be making a business of it, especially with the oil boom North Dakota is experiencing, Fischer said.

"I think it would be very positive for the city of Dickinson," he said.

At one point more than 10 years ago, the consensus was to tear the building down, Brinkman said, adding this task was undertaken to preserve the building to benefit the city.

"The building is not about me, it's about this community," Brinkman said. "It has been since the beginning and it still is today. There have been a few who worked very hard to get it to where it's at today." He added, "It's more important to see the benefits and the positives of the building put in by the community than it is to focus on negative rumors."