The new city hall that divided this MN town burned down overnight

The new city hall was a big issue during the city's recent election. Now it has been burned down.

A new city hall that was under construction in a small Minnesota community burned down over night – and some are saying it may have been arson.

Whether to restore the original city hall or construct a new one has been a divisive topic in Lakeland, a city of about 1,800 in Washington County near the St. Croix River. And the debate became fierce during the recent election, with the two candidates for mayor holding opposing views.

The historic city hall is not up to code – the building has mold, asbestos, failing foundation walls, a leaking roof and lack of accessibility, according to an assessment from the city council.

With renovations estimated at nearly $300,000, the council opted to go another direction – voting 3-2 in February to build a new city hall, estimated at $548,000. Construction began in October.

And now all that has been undone.

Residents discovered early Monday that a fire had destroyed the partially-completed new city hall, according to a news release. Mayor Amy Williams posted about the incident on Facebook.

Lakeland city council will meet Tuesday night to talk about a next step. The city is working with local law enforcement and fire investigators to gather facts and information. Anyone who knows something is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 651-430-7600.

More on the city hall fire

Council member Dick Glasgow was against the new building and ran for mayor, defeating incumbent Williams 61 percent to 38 percent. Only a day after becoming mayor-elect, he vowed to stop construction as soon as possible, WCCO said.

But Glasgow told the news channel that destroying the new facility is not helpful in any way, and noted he won the election by a wide margin.

A contractor on site told The Pioneer Press that there was nothing in the building that could've caused a fire, and estimated the damage at $150,000-200,000.

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