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Driver hits town hall, then hits it again

A Eureka Township woman, apparently suffering from a mental disability, escaped serious injury after driving her van into the side of the Eureka Township Hall last week.

The woman, whose name is not being released, reportedly drove her van to the township property sometime after 6 p.m. July 30. Moving at a relatively slow speed, the woman drove around the property, knocking down several trees and hitting the outside of the building three times.

Jeff Otto, chair of the township's board of supervisors, was a little surprised when a Dakota County sheriff's deputy called him with the news Thursday night. When he arrived at the town hall, Otto found a member of the planning commission, Cheryl Groves, talking to the driver and trying to calm the disoriented woman. The woman's van was parked on the front lawn.

With multiple sets of tracks around the property and noticeable damage evident, Otto followed the tracks to get an idea of the route the woman had taken and where the points of impact came. A witness told deputies the woman was not driving very fast, but the course was definitely erratic.

"The witness comment was like it was happening in slow motion," Otto said.

According to Otto, the woman was sore, but her injuries were minimal. Still, she was transported to Riverside Hospital, he said. The van appeared to have received little damage.

What to do

Town board vice chairman Brian Budenski, who has experience in the construction field, put out an early estimate of $50,000 to $75,000 in damage to the building and the landscaping. The building itself is less than a decade old, so the town officers have contacted the builder to look at the damage and determine what needs to be done.

The outer walls are brick, Otto said, but the van pushed the walls into the building. The impact left cracks in the brick exterior, so they covered the two sections with tarps and duct tape to keep moisture out until those walls can be fixed. The entrance to the building was also damaged, with the exterior poles knocked out of place. The front door was pushed in, too, but Otto said they were able to use a sledge hammer to get it back into place so the doors could be locked.

For the complete story, see the Aug. 6, 2009, print edition of the Farmington Independent.