None were received by the newspaper.
In December, aldermen, when questioned about public input, said they had received only a few responses — most were against accepting or utilizing the building.
Aldermen held a finance committee workshop session on Dec. 17 to discuss the matter in lieu of their regularly scheduled second meeting of the month. For 70 minutes, they reviewed estimates costs to demolish the structure, what portions of the 58,000-square foot building (if any) could be used, conditions for accepting the offer, if there was a time frame for making a final decision, if there would be time for additional studies, and how would the city finance any decision made regarding the offer.
Only eight residents attended the meeting including three from one family and two from another. The building’s owners, local retired businessmen Jim Decker and Don Lenauer, chose not to attend the workshop, they said, to allow aldermen the chance to discuss the issue on their own.
Perhaps a quote by Ward 1’s Bobbie Berger summed up their discussion the best. “One minute I want it,” said Berger. “The next minute I don’t want anything to do with it.”
When asked what kind of input aldermen had received, Ward 2’s John Kamler said it was “70-30 against” in calls and personal visits he had with constituents. Mayor Dixon Somerville said two residents he spoke with were for accepting the building and eight were against the proposal. Ron Miller, alderman for Ward 1, said “five or six” had told him to “stop it now.”
Miller had set the tone for the evening’s discussion when he asked his fellow board members if they had “any appreciation for this” and (to) “try to do something with it?”
Kamler pointed out cost estimates to demolish the entire structure were listed at $279,000 with $96,000 of that needed for asbestos removal. “I see no way we can keep this whole building,” said Kamler. “Other than that, I hate to turn it down.”
Decker and Lenauer offered the building to the city earlier this year. City officials and the two businessmen toured the site together in July. City officials had an architectural firm out of St. James inspect the building and give them cost estimates for repairs and upgrades. That study, released in late November, identified nearly $4 million in estimated costs to upgrade the entire facility to meet current codes. Lenauer was critical of a report, cited in The Republican, which detailed the cost estimates prepared on the city’s behalf. Estimates were too high, he said. Berger wondered about the “feasibility” of the city retaining the gymnasium (constructed in 1958) dinning room, classrooms around these structures and possible the front library wing (added in 1963).
“Is that an option?” asked Miller.
“It’s all options,” the mayor responded.
Miller said their “entry level” option would be to accept the building and do nothing with it. That, he noted, would have an “acceptance fee” for grounds and routine building maintenance which were quoted at $2,000 per month, according to figures given the city by the owners.
Asked about funds the city would have on hand just to accept the building, City Administrator John Tracy said they had $25,000 to $30,000 in budgeted reserves until the end of the year. “I start with a problem right there,” said Miller. “It’s fifty-thousand just to accept it and take it over.”
Noting they would likely have to deal with asbestos issues in the tile flooring and mastic (glue) if any remodeling was undertaken, Miller said, “the minimum level of acceptance is in the 300-hundred thousand range to just start that conversation.”
Somerville added there was probably around $300,000 worth of roofing work as an immediate concern.
“I’m just trying to frame it,” said Miller. “That’s where my thoughts are.”
Miller also questioned if the building’s 1950s design would “really work for anybody?”
The city-commissioned study noted all bathrooms would require ADA-mandated upgrades for use as a publicly occupied facility.
He estimated the city would need to spend at a minimum $500,000 just to accommodate any group seeking a lease agreement. Keeping only a portion of the building also had its drawbacks, he noted. “What’s value of saving a piece?” he asked. “Is it really worth that?”
Somerville provided the board with cost estimates on utilities and estimates on what it would take to operate the building should it be used for a community center or leased office or classroom space. He said his “current numbers” for “full operation” was $125,035 annually.
School district figures from the 2003-04 term, however, showed utilities including sewer and water, electric, natural gas and fuel oil costing $45,572.52.
Miller estimated, and the mayor agreed, it would cost “northward” of $1.5 to $2 million to get the building in a condition to rent space.
“What is the scope of the project?” asked Miller. There was no response from the board.
“I don’t think it’s going to change much no matter how you skin it,” added Miller.
“We’re all fiscal hawks,” said Kamler. “I don’t want it to be perceived as we’re all pie in the sky (on this project).”
That being said, however, Kamler told his fellow board members that “Don (Lenauer) is adamant about us trying to get something in there.”
Kamler suggested the board consider the option of keeping the gym and library wing. Kamler has said publicly, on several occasions, that Drury University was interested in a long-term lease agreement for classroom space for a satellite campus in Owensville starting as early as January 2014.
Suzie Jost, president of the Owensville Chamber of Commerce, told aldermen that while she was “emotionally attached, that doesn’t pay the bills.”
Jerry Lairmore, Southern District Gasconade County commissioner, noted the commission’s failed proposal to use the site as a county government building would have used 40 to 60 percent of the existing space. “Does the city want to be landlords?” Lairmore asked.
Decker and Lenauer met with Tracy, Somerville and Kamler this past Wednesday at City Hall.
Lenauer said he’s received pleas from the public not to tear down the building. He said he hoped the city could find a way to use at least a portion of the facility for a community center.
He and Decker are at the point where they no longer want the building and grounds. During the informal meeting at City Hall, Lenauer told the city representatives they would never have an offer like this again. In essence, he told them that 10 years down the road, he hoped they would not look back and wonder what happened.
Lenauer was ready to take the offer off of the table this past Wednesday. He, and Decker, have agreed to give the full board one more chance to discuss the matter.
Aldermen, to date, have not voted on the issue one way or another. When they convene at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, they are expected to vote up, or down, on the issue — or possibly seek an seek an extension on a deadline to study the issue in greater detail. The meeting at City Hall is open to the public.
|< Prev||Next >|