Save Uncle Hugo’s: August Update

Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s as they looked before last night’s fire.

Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore owner Don Blyly sent an update to subscribers on August 6 sharing how complicated it is simply to get the wreckage of his two stores torn down.

Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore were burned by vandals on May 30 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis.

To date the GoFundMe started to Help Save Uncle Hugo’s has raised $163,088 of the $500,000 goal amount.

The complete text of the update is here.

Don Blyly

IT TAKES TIME TO PULL PERMITS. The city has to give permission for the demolition.

 A couple of weeks ago I hired a company to handle the demolition and debris removal at the Uncles site. I asked the guy when the work could be done. He warned me that even in the best of times Minneapolis never issued a demolition permit in less than 30 days, and these are not the best of times. But he got the ball rolling to get the permit. (For those who remember when the Robert’s Shoes building at the corner of Chicago and Lake burned to the ground about 3 years ago, it took the owner 4 months to get a permit to haul away the debris. Every time he thought he had provided every possible piece of paper to the city, they would demand something new.)

THE DENTIST IS ALREADY DRILLING. A neighboring business is making life complicated.

I’ve written before about the dental clinic being built in 1995 using my firewall as his firewall, which worked fine until the Uncles burned to the ground. Suddenly, the new owner of the dental clinic wanted my firewall down as fast as possible so that he could repair his wall and get his business running again. I took down the front half of the wall by hand using a hammer and crow bar on the century-old mortar, but I knew that the back half would require machinery to take down. The dentist called late last Thursday to say that his contractor said that the back half of my wall next to his wall would have to come down within the next 10 days for the contractor to get his work done on time. I explained about the demolition permit and that we would not have the permit within the next 10 days…

On Friday I explained this to my contractor, who wanted to meet with me and the dental clinic contractor at the site sometime on Monday to look over the situation and the proposed solution….

On Monday I took a carload of mail orders to the post office at 9 am and then went to the Uncles site to take measurements to be able to do a site map of the Uncles as the building was before the fire. The dental clinic contractor had already used his bobcat, but not at all like I had been told he would. He did not go through the clinic. Instead, he took down the entire back wall of the back room (which I was assured he would not touch), scooped up most of the debris in the back room and lifted it over the wall into the Uncle Edgar’s space (thereby knocking down much of the Uncle Edgar’s side wall and back wall to about the 4 foot level), and then took down the back room wall next to the clinic and pushed it over next to the Uncle Edgar’s wall. When I arrived, a workman was busy taking down the dental clinic wall and tossing it into Uncle Hugo’s basement. When I complained about this, he claimed that he would pick it all up and put it in the clinic’s dumpster whenever a new dumpster was delivered. Three days later the clinic’s dumpster has been replaced, but the clinic just keeps tossing more of their debris into Uncle Hugo’s basement and hasn’t removed any of the sheet rock tossed in there on Monday.

GOT TO PAY THE PROPERTY TAX, BUT HOW MUCH? When your property has burned down, it’s only fair that it be reassessed for a lower value.

One of the things necessary to get a demolition permit is that the entire year’s property tax must bepaid before the permit can be issued. Half of the year’s property tax is due May 15 (and was paid) and the second half is due by October 15. But Minneapolis publicized that they would be reducing the property tax for the second half of the year for buildings destroyed or significantly damaged during the rioting. I filled out the form on-line in early July, and the city promised that a tax assessor would contact me within 3 business days. Nobody ever contacted me, so on July 20 I tried to contact the city assessor’s office.

…My on-line form had arrived, but around 800 properties had requested re-assessment because of damage from the riot and the work-from-home staff was simply overwhelmed with work. The city assessor’s office had until the beginning of September to complete those 800 re-assessments and send new figures to Hennepin County so that they could come up with new property tax figures. …Certainly not an ideal situation, but I now know that I should pay the higher tax now to move a step closer to the demolition permit, and hope someday to get a partial refund.

NOBODY TURNED OFF THE WATER? Apparently, in Uncle Hugo’s debris-filled basement, the water has been leaking for two months.

I eventually received a water bill for the store, forwarded to my home (which seems to added about 7-10 days). It charged me for estimated water and sewer volumes from 6-12-20 to 7-12-20, but demanded that I call them to arrange for a meter reading. I called and explained that the building was burnt to the ground on May 30, the water meter was in the basement under many feet of rubble, and I assumed that they had turned off the water when the fire struck, just like the electrical company and the gas company had done. The first person I talked to assured me that the water had not been turned off, and that the water had probably been pouring out of a broken pipe in the basement for over 2 months, so my water bill would probably be much higher than the estimated bill….

WINDING UP THE BUSINESS. This would be complicated anyway, but now the pandemic is affecting everyone.

It is taking longer than I expected to get matters cleared up with some publishers. Immediately after the fire the publishers were all asked to put the account on hold so that no orders could be shipped to us until we were ready, cancel all the old purchase orders that had not yet been sent, and change the address from the store address to my home address to speed up communications. Then, when a new monthly statement came in I would look for invoices that we might not have received (dated late May) and request copies of them so that I could determine if we had received them.

Both UPS and the post office stopped delivering to much of south Minneapolis after May 26 because of the riots. … UPS simply returned to sender every package addressed to the Uncles and over 100 other businesses, but some of the warehouses the boxes were returned to were short-handed because of covid-19 and took months to issue credits… It was a real mess trying to figure out what I really owed and send out checks. …I hope that within another month I’ll have everything cleaned up with the cooperative publishers

A MAN AND HIS DOG. Don Blyly’s dog, who comes from a long-lived breed, misses the store.

…If Ecko lives to be 20, that means she’ll still be dragging me around on half-mile walks when I’m 81. I’m not sure what to think about that. But she really misses going to the store and greeting people.

5 thoughts on “Save Uncle Hugo’s: August Update

  1. Yeah, there are some inconsiderate people here, for sure. It’s not as though it’s Blyly’s fault his store was attacked, as inconvenient as the repercussions might be for the dentist…

    Surely they won’t charge Blyly for the water if they failed to turn it off…

    It reminds me that the worst aspects of being burgled or assaulted are the “invisible” ones: the insult of having to pay to fix the parts that were broken, or dealing with the psychic consequences, almost always in silence, by yourself.

    What happens in moments takes lifetimes to heal, and the perps never even know the damage they’ve inflicted.

  2. I suspect the water isn’t running that much, or it would be noticeably in the basement. But they can cut the water off outside, even if it requires actual work by the water department. (I worked at a gas company. There are ways to do it.)

  3. I wish I could offer hope, but we now live in the nation that has the largest number of laws of any nation in the history of the world. (Read that in a report from the American Bar Association.) While some laws are there to keep us safe, most end up being there to employ bureaucrats.

    My house in the country, where it was possible to write, burned in 2015. I contracted for a modular home and the insurance was adequate. But the maze of bureaucracy continues to throw caltrops in my path now five years later: aided and abetted by the Covid Plague. The cost has more than doubled.

    While many of these piddling little barriers almost make sense, the one that really galled me was the insistence of one agency, charged with making sure our houses are energy efficient, that I install a fossil fuel source (propane) for the potential clothes dryer instead of electricity. A lot of us who survived the fire have distinct memories of exploding propane tanks as the wall of fire swept across the country and we fled through the flames. The answer from me was a resounding NO and another year was lost as the contractor battled the bureaucrats.

    The house is all built and sitting in a factory waiting for the foundation. The foundation was supposed to go in at this time last year. There have been plenty of excuses, some reasonable, but the fact it, its five years now. Lots of houses have been rebuilt, mine has not. And here comes the fire season again.

    I think most places hold it a crime to dump trash and debris in somebody else’s yard. (Yes, people did that at my house site. No, law enforcement has done nothing to protect me from it, nor to protect me from the theft of statuary.) It may be necessary to go so far as a police report about the actions of the dentist and his contractors. And although one always wants to get along with one’s neighbors, in this case the dentist is a bad neighbor.

    One’s Golden Years often turn into the years in which the Sheriff Of Nottingham is intent on extracting what little gold you have left.

  4. Pingback: Uncle Hugo’s Don Blyly Makes the Front Page | File 770

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