Old Miller building’s future in limbo
CRESCENT CITY — Despite a unified response by Crescent City commissioners in May to tear down the remaining building left on city-owned property at 301 Central Ave., the two-story structure may remain untouched until 2017.
Commissioner Barbara Scholl’s emphatic move for the city to “destroy the Miller building” during the city commission’s May meeting proceeded over the summer to submissions of bids for demolition.
During Thursday’s city commission meeting, City Manager Patrick Kennedy informed commissioners of the submitted bids.
“We got three,” Kennedy said. “Our original bid estimate was $43,000 — kind of an off-the-cuff estimate, but I was hoping it would be a little closer than what it is, apparently. The low bid is $24,235 over the budget estimate.”
Kennedy said the low bid came from Burkhalter Wrecking for $67,235. R. Hartwig Construction provided the second lowest bid at $84,987 and Gary S. Bailey Inc. was the only other bid at $138,670.
Kennedy said there was enough money in reserve funds from the Community Redevelopment Agency to cover the cost of the low bid.
Staff recommended negotiating a contract with Burkhalter Wrecking, Kennedy said, and would present it bto the CRA Advisory Committee and CRA Board for final approval
The property was the former headquarters for Miller Enterprises Inc., which ran a chain of supermarkets and convenience stores before selling its holdings and closing the office in 1995.
In 2010, Crescent City purchased the buildings with agency funds after former owner Mahmoud Eldick, through his corporation Etra Enterprises Inc., forfeited the property to the federal government in 2008.
Kennedy has told commissioners repeatedly the building is becoming a code enforcement issue and is an eyesore.
“In my professional opinion we need to do something,” Kennedy said.
Other options, Kennedy said, were to do nothing and allow the building to deteriorate or to spend money to clean up the façade.
“That’s wasting money in my opinion,” Mayor Joe Santa said of making repairs. “To do nothing is just to reduce our curb appeal and that is really not a good option.”
The building currently houses Boyz II Men, an organization that provides mentoring and programs to underprivileged youth in Crescent City, specifically targeting middle school students.
In 2015, the group entered a deal to rent the building for $1 a year for two years with the commissioners’ unanimous approval.
As part of the agreement, the organization cleaned and did minor repairs to the inside to make it usable for meetings.
Scholl said the group had appealed to her to spare the building through December.
“They said they would spend some money and some effort to make the outside look better,” Scholl said.
Scholl asked Kennedy if the commission agreed to the proposal from Boyz II Men, could the city expect the demolition crew to honor the low bid.
Kennedy said the bid is for 60 days.
“We would have rebid it at that point,” Kennedy said. ”I would have to talk to (Burkhalter Wrecking) to see if they would hold onto the bid for that long.”
Gerald Watson, a representative for the group, pleaded with commissioners to spare the wrecking ball even further.
Watson said the group has applied for a 501(c)3 nonprofit status and is actively looking for a new location, but a benefit of the Miller building is it is within walking distance of the middle school.
Once they receive a nonprofit status, Watson said, they would be able to solicit donations.
“We would like to stay through (the) Catfish (Festival),” Watson said.
The next festival is scheduled for April 2017.
“We’re prepared to assist in some beautification in dealing with shrubbery, the (broken) windows, pressure wash, possibly paint,” Watson said.
“That’s a long way off,” Judith West said. “You’re talking about seven months until Catfish, and we’re talking about the next two months for demolition to happen.”
City attorney Jay Asbury said if the commission waits the seven months to a year to act, costs would likely be significantly higher for demolition.
Commissioners decided on a motion by Harry Banks to table the discussion and allow Kennedy to discuss with Burkhalter Wrecking about maintaining the bid price for an extended date.