SOLON– The City of Solon is ready to take possession of its new city hall.
But there were a couple of detours along the way.
The city made an offer to purchase 100 W. Main St. in May, and that offer was accepted. Subsequently, an environmental assessment of the site turned up significant amounts of asbestos, prompting the city to revise its offer in June.
Then at a June 27 meeting, Solon City Council members were offered the former St. Mary auditorium on Dubuque Street as another potential site. Council members ultimately declined the offer due to the potential for excessive renovation costs.
As a result, Solon City Administrator Cassandra Lippincott reported at the end of June that the city anticipated closing on the Main Street location Monday, July 9, although that may be delayed due to some unavailable paperwork.
The two-story building, referred to as the Candy Store for the business it previously housed, was constructed in 1972 and features pre-stressed concrete ceilings and 7,200 square feet of space, with apartments on the second level.
It also contains asbestos, the naturally-occurring silicate materials commonly used as construction insulation, which can cause health problems when inhaled.
Lippincott said the company hired to review the building found asbestos in the floor of the main level, the ceilings of the apartments and around the windows and doors of the apartments. The firm, D.W. Zinser Co. of Walford, estimated the cost of removal at approximately $47,500, Lippincott said.
Because the city’s offer to purchase was contingent on the asbestos inspection, the city submitted a revised offer. “They countered, we countered,” Lippincott said. An offer of $214,000 was eventually accepted in mid-June, she said.
The city has approved borrowing up to $900,000 in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) bonds to finance the purchase and renovation of the Main Street building.
The city council is expected to discuss whether or not to bid out the asbestos removal portion of the renovation at a regular meeting July 18, along with a Request for Proposals (RFP) for design services.
The lower level of the building is projected to provide adequate space for city offices, council chambers and a conference room.
The conversation regarding the fate of the second-story apartments has not taken place yet, Lippincott noted.
With all that going on, the city also had to contend with a late entry into competition.
During a special meeting June 27, Mayor Cami Rasmussen announced the St. Mary Catholic Literary and Social Club building on Dubuque Street had been offered to the city as a donation by its current owner, Ron Foster of rural Solon.
The three-story building served as the site for St. Mary Catholic Church programs prior to the construction of a new fellowship hall at the church on Racine Avenue in 2006.
City engineer Dave Schechinger and inspector Steve Lee walked through the building (as did several council members) and provided general estimates ranging from $850,000 to $1.4 million for renovation.
“It’s a very generous offer,” observed council member Steve Stange. “It’s a very nice thing he’s offering to do for the city.” But the estimates for rehabilitation raised concerns about the structure, completed in 1916.
Stange said he was apprehensive that unknown renovation costs could continually increase once the city started on the project. He also indicated the location was landlocked, with no additional space available to acquire for parking.
“I know that people were concerned about the size of the structure we were looking at when we were looking at Brosh,” Stange said, noting the city might have problems utilizing the three levels of the building.
“I’d be concerned we would spend a lot of time trying to figure out to do with the extra space,” added council member Brad Kunkel. “It’d be a unique challenge to make the most of it.”
The city was also well underway with the purchase of another site, Stange said. “I just hate to change gears yet again.”
Councilor Mark Krall agreed, saying the city had a much better idea of how much money it was going to spend with the Main Street site.
Council member Ron Herdliska said the potential cost to rehabilitate the building stood out to him. “Our public has already told us no on that,” Herdliska said. “I think that would probably cause an upheaval that we wouldn’t care to go against.”