Demolition on Midtown Building approved… again
Six weeks after Commissioner Nick Aberle made a motion to rescind the board’s unanimous decision to demolish the Midtown Building, the commissioners have made their final decision. The commissioners voted 3-2 — Commissioners Aberle and Julie Burenheide opposed — to demolish the 97-year-old building during their meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.
Present for the meeting were Mayor Doug Clark, Commissioners Aberle, Norm Schmitt, Burenheide and Maridel Wittmer, City Administrator Doug Allen and City Clerk Steve Compo. Guests present were Daniel Halstead, Donna Halstead, Cole Lehwald, Linda Johnson, Jerry Johnson, Betty Niehues, Ed Steinlage, Jay Barber, Bob Ruddick, Jason Enneking, Alex Dawdy, Matt Heiman, Jessica McCulloch, Jeremiah McCulloch, Jesse McCulloch, Jacob McCulloch, Travis Hennigan, Lynn Hennigan, Anna Hennigan, Sara Homan, Dan Homan and Roger Hartter.
Mayor Clark opened the meeting by addressing those present — saying the board does not plan on taking any public comments on the topic of the Midtown Building, because a public hearing, in which the public was given a chance to speak has already been held.
Clark also addressed a post made on Facebook regarding the possibility of taking the demolition of the building to a public vote.
“Our city attorney [Martin Mishler] looked into the law on that, and there are only certain things that we’re allowed to have a public vote on, and tearing down a building is not one of them,” Clark said.
Clark then opened up for discussion between the board regarding the motion Aberle made during the Jan. 13 meeting. That motion was read as follows: Commissioner Nick Aberle made a motion to rescind the decision to tear down the Midtown Building from the Oct. 28, 2019, commission meeting.
Aberle started the discussion off by saying he made the motion because he felt like the board was “hasty” in their decision to demolish the building and didn’t have all the needed facts.
“My point in making that motion was I think that we were pursuing to tear down, but we didn’t really know why,” Aberle said. “I personally still don’t feel like there is a good reason to tear it down, other than the city doesn’t have a use for it. But in this process, we have discovered that several departments depend on buildings in that facility for storage. They voiced their concerns that they won’t have any storage.”
Aberle asked if anyone else on the board besides him had taken a tour of the building recently. They all said they had. Wittmer clarified, saying she had not been in the building in the last year, but that she had been through it.
Aberle said his point in this was to not be so hasty to just “tear it down, to tear it down.”
“I don’t think the cost to the city is great enough to warrant spending $150,000 tearing it down, when there is some usable function left to it,” Aberle said. “I think we take a six-month to a year hiatus from it. In that time frame, if somebody wanted to explore it, they could take the opportunity to invest some of their money to do that. I think people should have a chance to investigate it.”
Wittmer asked Allen if he’s had anyone come by asking about buying the building.
“I have not had anybody come and express an interest in purchasing the building,” Allen said.
“I would be interested in knowing what direction we are going in,” Burenheide said. “I don’t think we ever got to that point. So, you’re taking a building that belongs to the taxpayers, but you’re not saying what we’re going to do with it. There’s no plan beyond this.”
“My understanding was that we would have a vacant lot, that would then be available for someone to buy,” Clark said. “We would want to be careful about who builds in that location, because we don’t want just anything going there.”
The board then discussed the roof, and said the building hasn’t had a new roof in 30 years. The two bids presented for roof repair were from Specialty Roofing for $99,650, and Fletchall Roofing for $127,000.
Schmitt asked, if the roof was replaced, how long would it would last. Allen said a new roof would last 15 years.
“So it [the roof] has gone past its life expectancy,” Schmitt said.
“I am not trying to rush discussion, but at some point we’re going to have to stop and vote,” Clark said.
S. Homan said although the public was not allowed to speak tonight, she would like the opportunity to bring forth some new information before they voted.
“No, I am sorry, but we have already allowed for public input,” Clark said. “At some point we have to stop. We can’t just continue to have public input until everyone wears out and gets tired of it.”
Hartter asked Clark if he could speak to the board.
“Depends on what you want to talk about,” Clark said.
“I’m talking about Midtown,” Hartter said.
“No,” Clark said. “We’ve already had public input.”
“I won’t talk about that, but I will talk about the board,” Hartter said. “When you had the time for the public to speak, I was out of town and I couldn’t come.”
“I’m sorry,” Clark said.
“So, you really don’t care what goes on,” Hartter said.
“No, I think we do care what goes on,” Clark said.
“I was told by street talk that the building was coming down before you had that public meeting for the people to speak,” Hartter said. “I was told that you had already made up your mind.”
“We voted in October to tear the building down,” Clark said. “Then we started reconsidering it and we had a public hearing to get input.”
“I think you, as a board, need to really study what is financially best for Sabetha,” Hartter said, “And I don’t really think you are all doing that. There’s a lot of questions out there about the board.”
The board members decided they were ready to vote, and Clark reminded them of the motion to rescind their previous decision.
“If you vote in favor of this motion, you’re voting to not tear down the building, and if you vote against this motion, you are voting to tear it down,” Clark said.
The board voted 3-2 to tear down the building. Aberle and Burenheide voted in favor of rescinding the previous vote, while Schmitt, Clark and Wittmer voted not to rescind the previous vote.
The board then reviewed the three bids they received to tear down the building.
Those bids were as follows: Herrmann Earth Moving, $144,900; Siebenmorgen Excavating, $163,000; and Blood Excavating, $186,888.
The board asked questions regarding the bids. Allen said the numbers were “hard and fast” numbers, and nothing would be changed.
“The lot will be ready to build,” Allen said. “The only thing he [Herrmann Earth Moving] might leave are the basement footings that are about 15 feet down.”
Allen also said they told each company that sent bids, that there was “no rush,” because the City would have to work on selling everything in the building, and possibly salvaging pieces of the gym floor for people to purchase.
Clark asked about salvaging the stone work at the top of the building.
“It wasn’t discussed, but we can talk to them about it,” Allen said.
“I think there would be some interest in putting that some place as a memorial,” Clark said.
The board voted 3-2 — Aberle and Burenheide opposed — to accept the bid from Herrmann Earth Moving.
Clark then motioned to leave the Midtown gym open until demolition begins.
The board voted unanimously in favor of keeping the gym open until demolition begins.
After all decisions had been made, Clark allowed the public to speak.
Jessica McCulloch and S. Homan addressed the board about the decision they made.
Steinlage asked Schmitt to elaborate on the comment he had made at multiple meetings regarding someone possibly building a recreational-type building in the location.
“I had an investor approach me,” Schmitt said. “There is an investor, and others, that would be willing to build a new facility with a specific goal for expansion to the Shed [Shed Athletics] capabilities, but the city wouldn’t run it,” Schmitt said. “The conditions would be– it would be someone like Dr. [James] Longabaugh, or someone like that, that would take that on. The investor just asked me to not bring up his name. They are willing to pay the majority of the cost.”
Also at the meeting:
The commissioners approved the minutes from the Feb. 10 meeting, as well as the spring burn dates for now through Monday, May 4.
The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, March 9, at Sabetha City Hall.