Buchanan commissioners decide against leasing E. Third Street building

Published 1:20 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2021

BUCHANAN – Buchanan City Commissioners made it official Monday night. They no longer have any interest in leasing a newly constructed building on East Third Street for any period of time. The building put up by Mack and Bill Green had been the leading site for the new Department of Public Works facility just a few months ago.

City officials had approved a planned unit development ordinance amendment in September to allow the Greens to construct the “spec” building in the area that had once been home to the Clark Equipment complex. The idea then was that the city would lease the building to be the new DPW home.

That plan was opposed by residents at the time and fell out of favor with city commissioners in the last two and a half months with the election of two new commissioners. Earlier this month, commissioners voted to locate a new DPW facility on its current site at the end of Clark Street.

Monday, commissioners voted against using the Green building even for short term storage of DPW equipment while a new facility is constructed. The Greens had most recently proposed leasing space to the city for two years at a rate of $15,000 a month in the first year. The city could buy the building at the end of the two years for $1.5 million.

Former commissioner Dan Vigansky spoke against leasing the Green building before the commission vote.

“Come on, the building should be done by the end of the year. You could store equipment around there and set up an office in the Ross/Sanders House for JT (Adkerson, the DPW director),” he said. “Let them move on and sell the building to someone else.”

Current commissioners also concluded to move on from the Green proposal even on the short term. Cameron Downey noted that the city needs a place for storage for less than a year and could leave some equipment outside or throw up a temporary building if necessary.

Mark Weedon agreed. He noted that a temporary building could be put up for $110,000 and the city would have it for other uses long term when it isn’t needed for DPW equipment.

“This is a holdover from the previous commission that was pushed down our throat and fast tracked,” he said.

New commissioners Patrick Swem and Larry Money said they heard from constituents who oppose the Green lease.

“My phone started blowing up this weekend when the agenda came out with people voicing their opinions on this,” Money said.

“They all agreed to not rent something for a year or less at a cost of $200,000 in just rental fees when we could do something with that money more beneficial to the city,” he added. “It’s also not fair to the Greens to keep dragging our feet.”

Mayor Sean Denison and City Manager Heather Grace noted that a new proposal came about over the weekend that would provide a short-term solution for the storage of DPW equipment.

They said that G2 Developments which has the 7 Engines marijuana business in the city owns land off River Street and is proposing to sell three acres to the city. Grace said the parcel is located next to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and has space for the city to put up a pole barn there.

Commissioners appeared to be interested in the River Street proposal whether as a solution for short term storage needs or even as the future site of a municipal complex housing City Hall and the fire and police departments. The current fire station needs repairs, while the future of the Edgewater Bank building which houses the police department is up in the air.

Commissioners will revisit the issue of where to locate city operations at another joint meeting with the city’s planning commission. They had a joint meeting with the planning commission in early January and will have another one at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4. Like Monday’s city commission meeting, the Feb. 4 meeting will be virtual.

Monday’s meeting also featured the presentation of the annual audit by Plante Moran auditors and the year-end report from Fire Chief Mike Adams. Commissioners postponed action on three lease proposals and postponed a decision on hiring Stephanie Powers as the permanent city treasurer. She has been the interim city treasurer since the summer.

Grace said consultant Larry Nielsen has been unsuccessful in his search for city treasurer candidates over the last few months. She said the market is tight right now for people with those skills. She said the city’s options now include providing Powers with the training she needs and hire a firm to assist her in the meantime.

 As for the audit, Powers said the city ended the year with a surplus of over $100,000 in the general fund. She said revenue was originally budgeted to be $2.44 million and ended up being $2.42 million. Expenditures were initially budgeted to be $2.42 million and ended up at $2.3 million. The surplus went from $21,003 to $109,961.

         Auditors Britni McDole and Kenley Penner said the city received a clean, unqualified audit opinion which is the highest auditors can give.