Asbestos and other hazardous materials soon could be removed from the site of the former Kozy Bar, also known as the Pastoret Terrace and Paul Robeson Ballroom buildings. By a 5-0 vote Wednesday night, members of the Duluth Economic Development Authority approved a contract that would pay ACCT Inc. up to $65,500 to complete the abatement work on the buildings at the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East

The resolution in support of the work passed after commissioners received some assurances from Adam Fulton, interim director of the city's planning and development division.

"These properties have been subject to some litigation, and that has not been completely concluded. However, we did deem it appropriate at this time to consider what potential next steps might look like," he said.

Reading from the resolution's statement of purpose, Fulton said: "The proposed abatement work will not impact the final disposition of the structure and is necessary whether the structure is rehabilitated or demolished."

He went on to say: "It is staff's recommendation at this time that DEDA proceed with this work, because it would be something that has to be done whether the building is rehabilitated or demolished."

DEDA owns the tax-forfeited and fire-damaged Pastoret Terrace and Paul Robeson buildings, which have been condemned for human habitation. The Authority has sought to raze the structures and redevelop the site, but it has faced legal challenges from Eric Ringsred, the buildings' former owner, and a local group of preservationists who call themselves Respect Starts Here.

Earlier this month Judge Eric Hylden ruled in favor of allowing DEDA to proceed with demolition of the historic buildings, because he determined it was no longer feasible to save them and they posed a threat to public health and welfare in their current state. However, a 30-day stay on the decision remains in place.

DEDA Commissioner Nancy Aronson Norr asked if staff would hold off on the work until the 30-day period expired.

Fulton responded: "I would anticipate that we will let our legal staff make that determination, and so this would simply authorize this work to begin and would be subject to that sort of thing being evaluated in coordination with legal staff."