Dangerous building: Thermo Cel

The interior of the former Thermo Cel building in Sheldon has been a hotbed for nefarious activities in recent years.

SHELDON— The crumbling and dilapidated Thermo Cel building in Sheldon turned 60 this year but — fingers crossed — it will not make it to 61.

MidAmerican Energy Co. intends to have the properly cleared by December, according to spokesperson Tina Hoffman.

“We have it out for bid now for demolition,” Hoffman said.

Bids are due by Aug. 25 and the goal is for the demolition process to start Sept. 14 and be completed by December.

MidAmerican took possession of the property located across the tracks south of the Sheldon Post Office on Nov. 18, 2019, and owns the storage yard that abuts with the building.

When the utility company acquired the property from O’Brien County, representatives told county officials they intended to start demolition work this spring but ran into a few hiccups.

One of those delays included finding out the basement of the building contains 200,000 gallons of water.

“The building’s basement is holding water due to the rainwater penetration into the facility and the high water table in the area,” Hoffman said.

“Our test results of the water in the facility did not reveal that the water was contaminated with fuels or other hazardous chemicals.”

Sheldon city manager Sam Kooiker said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends the basement water be treated at the city’s wastewater treatment plant before it is discarded and the city agrees.

The Sheldon City Council will review the measure and more items related to the Thermo Cel demolition project at its Wednesday, Aug. 19, meeting.

Besides the water problem with the building, Hoffman also said MidAmerican had to due diligence on environmental issues.

“We’re looking at potential containments that might be there and how we might adjust based on that,” Hoffman said. “There was some asbestos in the building that will have to be handled appropriately, obviously, but we just really need to understand the building and the grounds around it to make sure that we have a good demolition in plan in place, but this is sort of the timeline we expected it to be on so it’s not dramatically delayed.”

Thermo Cel has long been a problematic structure in Sheldon and a previous iteration of the city council labeled it the most dangerous building in town in September 2018.

The hollowed-out building has been abandoned since 1987. The interior is covered in graffiti and has been a hotbed for unsavory behavior by ne’er-do-wells in addition to being a popular photo shoot location over the years.

“We are certainly anxious to move on and clean the site up and use it for something else,” Hoffman said. “I know everyone is anxious to see the next phase.”