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Solon council: Main Street site too costly

SOLON– It took only a week for the members of the Solon City Council to decide against pursuing a recently-available Main Street location.
After independently visiting the location, 100 W. Main St., and having the city engineer and building inspector do the same, council members determined renovation costs and other concerns have ruled out the building known as the “Candy Store” as a possible city hall site.
After learning that estimated renovation costs could be as high as a half-million dollars, council members decided during a special session last week they would pass on the property.
“If this were an option a year ago, I think we’d all be on board with it,” commented council member Brad Kunkel, noting that the availability of the Brosh Chapel and Community Center was a “game-changer.”
Each council member offered comments after touring the building and reviewing comments from City Engineer Dave Schechinger.
Schechinger and City Inspector Steve Lee took a look at the property at the city’s request, and Schechinger reported his findings at the July 27 special session.
According to Schechinger, while the pre-cast concrete structure is in relatively good shape, there would numerous issues to resolve, including likely extensive overhauls of the electrical and plumbing systems.
While most of the notations were minor– cracking and sagging from age, some deterioration around window sashes and potential water damage– it was the cost to gut and renovate the site that swayed the council members.
Citing general construction costs at $50-60 per sq. ft. for renovation, Schechinger estimated the city’s investment at over $400,000. An elevator, parking lot paving and the acquisition of adjacent property could drive the price up even further.
And with an asking price of $320,000, the building no longer appeared viable.
“The things he (Schechinger) saw are a lot more than I saw,” said council member Steve Stange, who indicated he went back and forth on his opinion before the meeting. Stange liked the location adjacent to the Solon Fire Station, but didn’t care for the flat roof and wanted to make sure a sprinkler system would be included in any renovation.
“I was kind of hoping it would be cheaper,” he said of the estimated costs.
Council member Cami Rasmussen echoed those thoughts and admitted taking a long time to ponder both sites before deciding. “My vision for Solon is Brosh,” she stated.
With the Brosh property still in contention as a city hall site, council members also discussed the remaining timeline moving forward on the purchase.
The city will likely issue bonds for the $1.3 million purchase price, but has yet to decide how repayment will be divided between the city debt service levy and TIF (Tax Increment Finance) revenues.
During Wednesday’s meeting, it was also informally decided that a majority of the council members support taking the issue directly to voters as part of the November general election.
A reverse referendum, which would have required a petition from residents to bring the issue to a vote, had been considered as an option, although it went by the wayside during the course of the meeting.
“I think the community needs to make this decision,” commented Stange.
That buys the city a little extra time to put together more details about the costs of operation and maintenance for the Brosh site, as well as the language that would go on the ballot.