FERGUS FALLS (AP) — Officials in western Minnesota are seeking to demolish long-abandoned buildings that were once a state hospital.

Fergus Falls leaders have asked the state Legislature for almost $9 million to demolish the Fergus Falls State Hospital.

The hospital once treated as many as 2,000 patients for various mental illnesses.

The state had planned to demolish the hospital when it closed in 2005, but the city asked for the opportunity to preserve the historic site. The state gave the property to the city in 2007 and provided nearly $9 million for the project. Now, those funds are almost gone.

"Within the next year that money will be gone and this property, the maintenance, will be on the taxpayers if we don't act and don't come to a resolution now," said Mayor Ben Schierer. "And that's just not acceptable to the taxpayers of this community."
There have been 17 failed efforts to redevelop the 127-year-old campus.

City Council's plan would demolish most of the hospital and only leave the main administration building intact. The first phase of demolition will begin this month by removing some outbuildings and tunnels.

While some local residents believe maintaining the buildings are a financial burden, others see it as an opportunity for economic growth.

The city should've taken a piecemeal approach to the campus' redevelopment, said Laurie Mullen, head of the Friends of the Kirkbride group, which is working to save the buildings.

"I think the state hospital is a jewel and a treasure that needs to be saved, it's not going to happen overnight it's going to be phased," said Chris Schuelke, executive director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society.