Looking For Work

The City of Warren still has approximately $3.5 million set aside for Streetscape II.

But with the Warren Convention Center project, the focus of Streetscape II, ” permanently off the table now or at least for the foreseeable future,” according to City Manager Nancy Freenock, the city is exploring other ways to spend that money.

City staff and council discussed the issue during a work session on Monday evening.

They may have found a place to spend the money: Renovating the municipal building.

“It’s our opinion that we could do all of this building and do it well,” Freenock said.

The building was originally constructed in 1937 and the last major renovation occurred in 1980.

Of the $3.5 million in the Streetscape II fund, approximately $1 million was taken out as a loan several years ago. Freenock said that the loan is currently being re-paid and Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz said the loan originally totaled $1.5 million with $500,000 utilized to complete Streetscape I.

The other $2.5 million is state RACP (Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program) funding. Those funds are managed by the governor’s Office of the Budget and are intended for the “acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural civil and historical improvement projects,” according to the Office of the Budget website.

“If we take this money from Phase II, does that means we’re never going to do part two of Streetscape, just forget it?” Councilman Jim Zavinski asked.

“There’s no match for a project in that area right now,” said Freenock. She explained that if the property is developed, it is common practice for the developer to install the infrastructure and the city to accept responsibility for maintaining it.

Holtz said the entire $3.5 million could be spent on the municipal building. He said the building needs a new roof, paving on the parking lot, windows and boiler. He also noted that the cupola is “soft,” the building leaks and could benefit from an emergency generator. The roof over the fire station, as well as windows and drainage issues there, could also be resolved.

“We have the opportunity to utilize $1 million we already have to generate $3.5 million in repairs,” Mayor Mark Phillips said, also noting that the city could repay the $1 million loan and make no improvements.

“Then you have a building that is falling apart,” Council Vice President Maurice Cashman said.

Phillips noted, “People have criticized (council) before for using grant money just because we have it.”

“This building is getting in dire state,” Cashman said. “It needs help.”

Freenock explained that the building also needs to be made ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. It currently is not.

Cashman asked Holtz to prepare a “reasonable estimate on everything that should be done to the building” from which council can make a determination regarding what work should be done.