City of Houghton to clean up Backroom

HOUGHTON – The City of Houghton, which now owns the former Backroom Multi-Entertainment building, will be cleaning it up to attract potential buyers.

The city took possession of the building two days ago. Former owner Michael Jestila, who was sentenced to a year in jail Monday for providing marijuana to minors, turned the building over in an agreement with the court. He is also barred from doing business in the county.

Jestila is subject to a mortgage lien and a state lien on the building. Between six and eight months from now, Superior National Bank will put the building up for auction. The bank will receive proceeds first, followed by the state; the city will receive any money left over.

City Manager Scott MacInnes said he is in close contact with Superior National Bank and working to get a buyer. He said he has had four inquiries into the building.

MacInnes said he had conducted a walkthrough of the building, originally the home of Kirkish Furniture.

“The building is certainly one of our key historic buildings in our community,” he said.

The city council approved $2,000 from the TV Franchise Fund to hire someone to paint the outside of the store. Upcoming tasks include painting over the purple in front and the window trim, covering the sign up, cleaning the stickers off the windows and creating a display in time for FinnFest USA?2013.

Once that is done, MacInnes said, the Department of Public Works will turn the power back on in the building and check to make sure the heating system is in order. The building has been without heat since February.

“I think it’s important that we know the condition of the heating system,” he said. “I understand that the boiler’s fairly new, but the heat was also turned off this winter for some reason, if the building doesn’t get sold before winter, I would come back to you and say heat the building for the winter. We cannot let that building sit unheated for another year.”

The building must also be cleaned out. Jestila has another 40 days to remove material from the site.

Councilor Daniel Salo asked what would happen to any property left over. Everything left over after that becomes the city’s property, MacInnes said.

“I hadn’t been in there for some time, but there were a lot of books in there,” Salo said. “It’d be a shame if they just get trashed.”

MacInnes said the general-circulation items, which are still in the building, might be sold off as whole to the highest bidder, or as an all-you-can-grab sale for a flat admission fee.

“We’ve got to get it cleaned up,” he said. “We can’t leave it that way.”