I think the village is stupid to not allow this llc to give it a shot at rehabbing the Wiss..The boards goal needs to be how do we start generating property tax for that. address.This seems like the ticket..Tear it down and you have a empty lot that will bring in no income...
Letter to the Editor from Doug Hill, Le Roy resident, on the Wiss Hotel
Submitted by Howard Owens on February 23, 2013 - 5:23pm
Letter to the Editor: I have been asked to weigh in on The Wiss Hotel’s future by a member of the Le Roy, NY LLC, who wants to renovate The Wiss for high-end apartments, and storefronts. First, I want everyone to know that I am not an investor in the LLC. I have no interest in the property upon which The Wiss sits if it’s torn down. My interest is that of every property owner in the Village of Le Roy who may be faced with having taxes we paid used to tear down The Wiss.
The Village Taxpayers -- Actually, the future of The Wiss itself is of little or no importance to me. My concern is that the Village trustees have voted 3-2 to seek bids to demolish the building. Some people in Le Roy may think it’s about time, but how many of us are taking the time to realize that this could cost Village property taxpayers between $148,000 and $250,000 to accomplish? And these numbers were estimated prior to an asbestos removal study which would likely increase the cost. The answer I’ve gotten from one Village trustee is that the Village has the money that we’ve paid previously in taxes to accomplish tearing down The Wiss.
Is The Wiss Property Worth More As A Lot Given the Cost to Village Taxpayers? -- My question I posed to the Village Board in January was why would the Village taxpayers pay to tear down The Wiss? Some of the trustees apparently see that the property will be worth more with The Wiss gone than it is now. I think this is an unfounded assumption. The space taken up by The Wiss and the adjoining storefront is not big enough for any development on the scale of what current developers need, such as what was needed when Walgreens bought up at least three houses, one old gas station and a store in back, the Milliman Block of storefronts, and the historic Masonic Temple for their facility.
Village Has Received Offers for The Wiss As Is, and When Torn Down & Filled In -- The Village has gotten an offer of $125,000 for the property once the Village tears down The Wiss and fills in the hole, and this individual says the property is worth $250,000. If there were no other parties interested in The Wiss than maybe we as a village would have to tear it down. But what about The Creekside Inn, that has been vacant for years, and I don’t hear any concern about it? Fortunately, the developer there intends on completing The Creekside. But The Wiss, too, has a developer interested in saving it, the Le Roy, NY LLC. The LLC is a group of citizens I understand who are mainly from our community, who want to renovate The Wiss and are willing to pay the village $10,000 for it. In addition they promise to immediately fix the roof, and take care of any concerns about its impact on the neighboring buildings, and to spend $400,000 renovating the building. A feasibility study has been done, which I believe figures in The Wiss getting historic status, which has been called into question because the exterior facade is not original and the inside has apparently been gutted of anything historically significant. But, this is a private venture, and if the investors know this and still think it a good investment, who is the Village Board to stand in their way?
A Village Trustee Is Worried About Investors in a Wiss Private Enterprise -- One trustee in a recent article on the subject of The Wiss, said he was against saving The Wiss because by doing so we as a village would be encouraging the members of the LLC to invest in the building, only to lose their investment. My opinion is that that should not be the concern of the Village Board. Once the property is owned by the LLC, if that happens, the LLC is a private enterprise. For too many years the Le Roy Village boards that have come and gone and have taken all of us into one business venture or another (one notably being the failed compost facility that we’re still paying for). The Village Board has no place making private business decisions, and no place picking winners and losers in this realm. If the LLC pays the village $10,000 for the building and saves the taxpayers an additional $148,000 to $250,000 from having to tear it down, we are ahead as taxpayers and that is what we expect the Village Board to be interested in. If the LLC takes possession of the building and fails, the county and then the Village will be its owner again, but this time we’ll have a building in much better condition than it is now, and therefore we as taxpayers win. And a private investor might buy the renovated Wiss from the LLC, and it may not become the Village’s responsibility even if they do fail. This is private enterprise at work.
Where Is the D. O. T. If The Street Is To Be Widened At the Intersection of Rt. 5 & 19? -- There have been comments made by another Village trustee that the corner needs to be altered to allow large trucks to make the turn more easily, but this is a state issue, and The Wiss has been for sale, and/or in the Village’s possession since 2005. If the state wanted to address this concern where are they? If the state gets funding in the future, I’m sure Walgreens would be only too happy to sell them some of their property to accomplish a wider street.
Is The Wiss a Fire-Hazard? -- On the issue of whether or not The Wiss is a fire hazard, we as a village, through our fire tax, purchased a fire truck with extension ladders capable of fighting fires from above tall buildings such as we have on Main Street, and in other parts of town. Also, I’m sure our fire department has the equipment to go alongside any window of the building and fight a fire through the window(s). Our Fire Chief Tom Wood has said that he will not have his department enter The Wiss if there is a fire, in its current state. This may be a concern, but The Wiss has burned before in recent years, and I understand quite extensively when it was occupied, and it did not affect the surrounding buildings. And where is the concern about fire here when there is no electricity and no natural gas going to this building? And modern firefighting technology can be employed by our fire department to contain a fire at The Wiss if one should occur again. And if it is so wet inside, as has been reported, what’s going to burn?
The Creekside Inn down the street has burned a couple of times through the years, and more recently, the second time, than The Wiss fire. And The Creekside Inn was occupied by a restaurant and apartments at the time. While some damage was done to the adjoining building there, and maybe any risk is intolerable to us, a fire can occur in a house or building at any time. Whether it’s occupied or not doesn’t stop a fire. And one only has to look at the walkway between the Vintage & Vogue building and the Fusion Dance Center building, on the other side, to see that there are at least two layers of brick on either side that forms the walls there. The Wiss likely has the same layers of brick between it and the adjoining building as do the buildings on either side of the walkway. How many layers of brick make up a chimney, and what are the fire risks there? Also, there have been other buildings destroyed by fire on Main Street through the years and they’ve been contained to one building in each instance. And The Wiss is right across the street from the Le Roy Police, and the Le Roy Fire Department so an eye can be kept closely on it if the LLC buys and renovates it.
What Could A Renovated Wiss Building Look Like? -- The Wiss is a very, very old building, and that in itself, for me, isn’t reason to keep it and renovate it. I haven’t ever thought the building to be attractive, but with a light color paint on the brick façade, and banks apparently willing to invest in the LLC, why wouldn’t we give the LLC the chance to save this building?
Why Not Sell The Wiss to the Le Roy, NY LLC Who’s Interested In Renovating It and Possibly Save More Buildings On Main Street from the Wrecking Ball? -- Possibly other buildings will be saved around it, if The Wiss is renovated rather than torn down, and our Village will have character unlike so many places in the surrounding area where the older buildings have been torn down. Why not accept the LLC’s offer, rather than have a developer buy the lot and tear down more of our Main Street for a new structure? And how long would it take to get back the demolition costs in property tax, and from a portion of the county’s sales tax that comes back to Le Roy from a new development? How many minimum wage jobs are going to make a real difference in Le Roy that wouldn’t be possible with the existing buildings there?
What Could The Village Do with Our $148,000 - $250,000 Instead of Tearing Down The Wiss? -- Lastly, what could the Village Board do with the $148,000 to $250,000 needed to tear down The Wiss? I understand they have an extra $250,000 in their coffers. What could the Village do with that amount of money in terms of revitalizing the creek bank in Le Roy, our signature view, by covering the stones that were placed there for erosion control? The creek bank in the public portion is an eyesore and only the village government, not private enterprise, can correct this. What about renewing the project to put old-fashioned street lights on Main Street every other light to revitalize Main Street? What about replacing sidewalks that are in very bad shape on Main Street? There are so many things that could be done with the $250,000 the Village has of our tax dollars rather than tearing a building down that a developer wants to buy and put on the tax rolls. And while they’re at it, the Village Board could give every property owner a rebate on their taxes. Who would complain about that? Thanks for reading this letter and I trust that Village taxpayers, and interested residents of the Town, will let the Le Roy Village Board know what they want to happen with The Wiss.
Douglas Hill, Le Roy Village Resident
This whole debate puzzles me, someone, beside the taxpayer, is willing to spend/waste/invest their own money,
and we have taxpayers upset? We will never get govt. off our backs with this line of thinking.
I agree, my biggest concern on this would first be safety and i believe the LLC has a plan in place to address that once they take possession. Next would be what is my tax money being spent on and is the board keeping the village taxpayers best interest in mind when making a decision. Honestly, don't think this is the case if we have a buyer with a plan and we are just turning our backs on them for one reason or another or because we have extra money in the village coffers? This seems like it's been going on for quite a while now so i can't remember exactly who is voting no and their reasoning? I think it started out as safety for some of them, then i thought i remember two of them saying they would rethink their vote if they were putting offices in instead of apartments. I personally don't think we need anymore apartments either but, if the LLC fixes the Wiss up and it looks better and saves the village a quarter million dollars and they feel apartments are going to get them the return on their investment that they need then why should we stop them.
You've got it Gerald. Private enterprise should decide whether to go with apartments versus offices upstairs in a building that would be owned privately. Also, consider accessibility for offices. If I were renting space for an office, I'd want it on the first floor for my customers to be able to come in easily. In an apartment, that's up to who's going to rent whether it's accessible or not.
If someone knows how to vote for a comment please let us know. I'm new to this. Thanks.
Doug, Log in w/user name and pw, follow on screen instructions..click up/down to rate comments..
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As the owner of the only adjoining building with the Wiss my primary concern since it closed in 2005 (yes it has been 8 years) has been the safety of my tenants and the impact the vacant building has on my investment.
The Wiss has cost my business at least $3,500 since it was abandoned. I have experienced water intrusion, infestations of rats, honey bees, hornets and bats and our rear courtyard has essentially been rendered useless by falling debris and it has been overrun by cats. I have upgraded our fire detection and alarm system in response to the fear that a fire next door would quickly spread into our building. My family and I personally bagged up the asphalt roofing that blew off the Wiss and landed in our courtyard. We hauled all 6 contractor bags full of debris up and over the first floor stairwell to the street. The window panes facing the courtyard literally fell out of the sash and landed in our courtyard. We have been very lucky that nobody has been injured.
I put the village on notice regarding these issues in 2011. This was more than a year after the village's own code enforcement officer notified the village trustees at a board meeting (3/24/2010) that the building was unsafe and in violation of the village's own law regarding unsafe buildings. Still nothing has been done.
I personally would rather see the building be demolished, but only because it brings the most immediate closure to the issues facing my building. I have not been a strong advocate for the LeRoy, NY LLC concept thus far because I am concerned that if their plan fails, my business will still be dealing with the impacts of a vacant building anywhere from 6 months to 3 years from now.
I would be more supportive if the LLC would approach a lending institution and the GCEDC and get "conceptual" backing of their business plan. I have been told by Bob Fussell that this has not been done to date because the LLC doesn't have title to the property. I would counter that business plans are presented to banks everyday on ventures that don't have title to what they are seeking investment backing for. GCEDC also discusses tax breaks and deals with potential companies all of the time--often long before they have committed to buying land in Genesee County. I understand that the deals couldn't be finalized until the LLC owned the land, but to the best of my knowledge no progress has been made in either area.
The tax breaks and financial lending are the lynchpins to the LLC business plan. Without financing, the LLC would need to generate at least another $400,000 in private investment in addition to the $400,000 originally planned. The lack of tax breaks significantly impacts the annual operating expenses for the LLC and the return on investment predicted by the plan.
I would also be more comfortable with the LLC had they marketed their concept and obtained at least a few verbal commitments from potential tenants. As an owner of both commercial and residential properties in Le Roy, I personally feel the business plan may be reaching a bit in terms of the viability of the retail spaces and the market/pricing for high end apartments in the village.
There are several vacant storefronts throughout the village, both along Main St and in the plazas on the west side of town. If there was a market for retail these other spaces would be filling up. Many of the them have been vacant for several years, even those with off-street parking (something a rejuvenated Wiss won't have). Bottom line--it is very hard to fill office space and retail space in Le Roy.
There may be a small niche market for high-end loft type apartments, but pricing will be an issue. Many of our upper story Main St apartments are in excellent shape and some offer off-street, garage parking with washer/dryer included and the rent is nowhere near what the LLC proposes in their business plan. The availability of houses for either lease or purchase at a low price in the village competes heavily with apartment rents.
So without more confidence in the LLC's feasibility study I am stuck being an advocate for demolition at this point.
I also have a few comments regarding Doug's letter to the editor:
The cost to the village taxpayers shouldn't be weighed against the value of a vacant or future developed lot; it should be weighed against the potential financial exposure of a liability-based lawsuit. A lawsuit against the village would quickly cost taxpayers far more than what it cost to tear the building down. I agree that selling to the LLC is a good escape plan, but if they fail, the village will be the ultimate bag holder.
The demolition costs will not need to include an asbestos study or intensive asbestos remediation plan as the building can be demolished "hot" under the exclusions provided by Part 65 of the NYS Industrial Code relative to buildings that have been declared "unsafe".
The DOT already owns some of the land (a.k.a. Right of Way) the Wiss sits on. They have acknowledged the "encroachment" of the building and have limited options on how to deal with the encroachment without obtaining the entire parcel and dealing with the demolition themselves. This is very unlikely to happen without federal aid, and is only going to happen during a major reconstruction of Rt 19, which is not scheduled anytime in the next 5-7 years.
Is the building a fire hazard? Absolutely. There does not need to be electricity and/or gas present for a fire to start. There is plenty of moist rotting debris within the building and its walls that could start all on its own given the proper conditions. People entering the building are also a threat. I have personally witnessed people entering the building through the collapsed portion of the building along the north side in the area where the village erected snow fence. All it takes is one dropped cigarette. Based on its location on the west end of Main St, its exposure to the prevailing wind, and its proximity to other buildings with no fire walls, the Wiss is a potential catastrophic fire. Being that the Wiss is unoccupied any fire that starts is going to burn until it is noticed from the outside. The wall between the Wiss and my building consists of plaster/lathe on a studwall, the original tin siding of the exterior of the Wiss and then the brick facade of my building (also supported by a wood stud wall). This brick facade is not fire-rated and it should not be compared to the brick found in a chimney. It is not fire brick and the mortar would quickly crumble when exposed to extreme heat. Any imperfection in the mortar would allow flames to penetrate and get inside the walls of my building. Based on my knowledge of the existing building code, this assembly provides only 30 minutes of protection under ideal conditions.
I appreciate your comments Tim, and if I owned your building next to The Wiss, I'd want something done as well. I guess the question is who is going to take it on, and then how fast can whatever is done with The Wiss be accomplished? A priority of the LLC if they were to purchase the property, could be tearing down in back those areas that impact on your property. I understand this is part of their renovation plan. I read that the LLC promises to construct a firewall, between your property and The Wiss, as a priority if they buy in there. Any access to the building (assuming that at some point entering, it could be boarded up) should be done by the Village immediately. If The Wiss is torn down, I would think you as a building owner adjoining it, will have some issues with your outside wall that will become exposed. This occurred between the Vintage and Vogue building and the Fusion Dance Center building when the building between them came down. The Village owns this breezeway and is 50% responsible for the condition of the walls on either side. Look how the Village is taking care of what's half their responsibility? Bricks have and may continue to fall from those walls. This is a liability issue as is The Wiss. I appreciate the information you've provided Tim and hope that the best solution for all of us can be achieved.
Re: "approach(ing) a lending institution and the GCEDC and get "conceptual" backing of their business plan."
Mr. Fussell may have misunderstood what was being asked at the time because both the Bank of Castile and the GCEDC were approached in mid September of last year with the business plan and they responded very positively with rates and amounts. Maybe he did think Mr. Hens meant a more finalized deal.
However, I do agree that it is only smart to revisit the issue as it has been six months since those talks, and certain assumptions (as the tax breaks and the total cost of the rehab) that have been built into the plan need to re-evaluated from time to time to judge if and when a tipping point into non feasibility is reached.
Also, an asbestos survey has just been done to the tune of something like $3800 (Village money, so the project could go out to bid) - so it is correct in that a survey will not be part of the demolition costs, however abatement costs might be as there was friable material found (the crumbly nasty cancer causing stuff).
If, as Mr Hens suggests, the building is declared "unsafe" and taken down 'hot' (which could be one of the reasons for the recent code review?), it seems that the Village's concerns about safety would kick in again. Would they want responsibility for exposing citizens (and the neighboring tenants) to asbestos dust? Well, I suppose since it takes a bit longer to show the symptoms of mesothelioma vs injuries from getting hit with debris, maybe they are willing to take that chance? I would hope not though.
And to clarify, I mean that the action of demolishing the building 'hot' without abatement (to save money?) instead of keeping the building intact would be what exposes the neighboring tenants to asbestos dust.
I do think it was a good opportunity for training the new code enforcement officer. I don't doubt that at all. The presentation of the findings to the Board is what makes me a little curious, especially since it is the trainer, and not the trainee, who will be presenting things at the next Board meeting.
Because there will be actual recommendations, it looks to be at least a little more than just a training exercise. What is the Board expected to do with the information? Does any of it need to be done before a demolition? And if they sell the building to the LLC, isn't the LLC the ones that would have to bring the building up to code? Does the Wiss need to be declared abandoned if there is rehabilitation going on?
I think it is actually a very helpful thing for the LLC group to be made aware of what specifically needs to be done to make the building secure. The more information they have, the better they can know what to expect and estimate costs.
As far as Mr. Hens' comment about taking the building down 'hot' : this has been mentioned before and it concerns me. I think that a safety minded Village Board would be naturally adverse to the idea - and I would hope the Village wouldn't use an 'unsafe' structure designation to accomplish an unsafe demolition.
I also understand the Fire Inspector went through on Friday. Another training exercise?
I know you’re for the LLC but, I don’t think you should be questioning the boards’ integrity by putting a statement out their questioning whether or not they are willing to implode the building and risk people feeling the effects of mesothelioma. I think the board is weighing their options and will hopefully make a decision that best represents what the community wants. If we don’t like that decisions then we can either do something about it by voting the current board out or sit around and complain about it without doing anything at all. I also do not call myself an expert on imploding buildings but, I would guess or assume there are laws that would take into account taking down buildings with asbestos. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the first building that is taken down with asbestos inside it!
Re: Mr. Robinson comments:
I would like to make clear that I take the LeRoy Village Board at their word that they are concerned about public safety and well being. I do not think they say this for some ulterior motive to try to block the sale of the Wiss to the LLC. I believe they are sincere. They care about safety.
It is more a word of caution, and a response to Mr. Hens' suggestion about taking it down "hot".
Most people tend to be far less concerned with delayed injurious effects than injury that is easily and immediately observable (especially if they are non-scientists). This is well known. I would hope that the Village Board, in their capacity as protectors of the public well being would think about the possibility of delayed harm.
It also doesn't really help people who already are harmed by an action to vote anyone out of office. That doesn't prevent them from being hurt, does it?
And finally, just because "it won’t be the first building that is taken down with asbestos inside it", doesn't mean that is a good thing to do if it is unsafe. Two wrongs.....
Miss Compton said "Would they want responsibility for exposing citizens (and the neighboring tenants) to asbestos dust? Well, I suppose since it takes a bit longer to show the symptoms of mesothelioma vs injuries from getting hit with debris, maybe they are willing to take that chance? I would hope not though."
I would hope not...no, I am SURE they would not. There are members of this board that I have personally known for a long time, and for you to even slightly insinuate that safety would be a secondary consideration is preposterous. Whatever is done is going to be done with the best interest of this board's constituents, and for you to imply otherwise is poorly laid propoganda, at best.
Whoever brings that building down isn't going to be found on Craigslist..it's going to be a state licensed, trained,experienced in such demolition company.
Miss Compton also said "GCEDC were approached in mid September of last year with the business plan and they responded very positively with rates and amounts."
How is this private investment? You are relying on GCEDC money, and some historic preservation grant(i.e. taxpayer money), along with a bargain basement price on the building(government owned). Those making the argument that private enterprise should be allowed to do as they wish are 100% correct, they should be able to. But this project, while partially private, is equally government subsidized;hence, not a true private venture.
My opinion is the building is best razed, and the intersection widened. I know it's not the popular opinion to have, but it's mine and I'm not likely to change it.
Mr. Prevost, it was my point that the Board IS concerned with safety. I believe them. I was trying (obviously not very well) to show that the suggestion of a 'hot' demolition to save money didn't seem like an option that the Village Board would take. A related question then was what purpose would there be for the Village to start the process of having the building being declared 'unsafe'?
Sorry the LLC plan isn't as ideologically pure as you would like. Widening the intersection wouldn't seem to be either, as it could be construed to be a state subsidy for the trucking industry.
Apparently, sarcasm isn't your forte. A state subsidy for the trucking industry? Please. It would be a smart move by the state to widen that intersection to accomodate the big rigs, and the level of car traffic that drives through there. It is a real problem, and we have a chance to address it.
Lisa, we disagree. You have your opinion, and I have mine. I obviously took your statement incorrectly, and as such, I apologize. I took offense to what I perceived a slap to the village board. They work diligently on our behalf, and I believe are under appreciated.
Asbestos dust from a quick tear down of The Wiss without abatement, would linger for years on Main Street. I don't think the Village Board or the public will allow it. This is a matter of public safety. As for the building possibly being open to an intruder(, I would think the Vilage would put up a 6 ft. or higher cyclone fence over the opening( to protect the public from what they might encounter in a vacant, dark building, and to protect us from liability issues. Police patrols should be done behind The Wiss building. Any debris falling off the building should be cleaned up by the Vilage.
Thank you, Bud, but I think LIsa is just asking questions.
So, I often say things that are not very popular (at least initially). Here goes one more: What if there were another way to assist the trucks that didn't involve tearing down the Wiss building and might be less costly? It isn't a very popular idea, but it might work and might, I say might, be more enticing to the state. No guarantees, just like there are no guarantees they are going to change the flow without the building there.
Mr. Hill, you state in your letter..."If the LLC takes possession of the building and fails, the county and then the village will be its owner again, but this time we’ll have a building in much better condition than it is now, and therefore we as taxpayers win."
How does the village become the owner again? How is that a win for taxpayers?
Just to clarify my comment on tearing the building down "hot". This is a demolition term and does not imply that this method of demolition will expose anyone to asbestos. The contractor still has to abate the project--usually by spraying water on the building and debris as it comes down. Any contractor doing this is required to be certified and licensed by the Department of Labor. This is a cheaper method of abatement rather than the labor intensive method of encapsulating the building and removing materials bit by bit. The materials all wind up in the same landfill.
If the LLC acquires the property it will have to abate the entire building, which will require full encapsulation and removal by manual labor. Full abatement is required under the Industrial Code based on the level of work/alteration required on the building.
Sorry for the confusion.
Mr. Hens, why does the building have to be declared condemned or structurally unsafe to be able to do this type of demolition? Why isn't it allowed to be done on a non-condemned structure? Is it a less safe method?
In the worst case scenario, if the LLC buys the building, and renovates it, but cannot make a go of it, and cannot sell it, it would eventually become the property of the County or immediately the property of the Village again. Actually the lenders would more likely become the owners of The Wiss, and not the Village, through foreclosure. The banks would be paying the property taxes, and it would be in the interest of the lenders to find a buyer of the building at whatever price.
There is no advantage to the Village (us) owning The Wiss now or in the future, but we'd be better off with The Wiss if the LLC were to own it and make improvements there. If the LLC fails, the improvements having been made are a win to the village. The concerns about the safety of the building are the first priorities of the LLC, such replacing the leaking roof, putting up a fire wall between it and the adjoining building (something probably lacking between many buildings on Main Street), and sections of The Wiss that are collapsing in back would have been immediately torn down.
This would all be better than where we as a village are now with this building. This building would be worth more to a buyer than the $10,000 that it's worth now (what the LLC has offered to buy it). The Village of Le Roy would not have spent $148,000-$250,000 to tear it down, thereby freeing up this money for other purposes. We'd have a building in better shape that forms the cornerstone of the north side of Main Street. As taxpayers we can only win from selling it to the LLC.
I understand that new people spoke up at the Village Board meeting last night, in favor of saving The Wiss Hotel building from demolition, and thereby saving other buildings on Main Street. Our new code enforcement officer said that it is possible to bring The Wiss up to code. It was said I understand, that if The Wiss were torn down, and the State D. O. T. excercised its right to widen the street where The Wiss now sits, clearly the parcel remaining would be much less than it appears it would be. Another inidividual apparently spoke up, who runs a local restaurant franchise, and said that the footprint, the parcel left by The Wiss, would not be big enough to build on given how much land is needed to build new businessess nowadays (i.e. Walgreens, a Tim Horton's, etc.).
When and if does developer Bill Farmer intend to complete his project at the Creekside Inn? Is it going to continue to be a vacant building for several more year's? Maybe its time for Mr. Farmer to let us know what exactly his plans are.