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February 22, 2013 - 10:55am

Tour reveals what you might expect: The Wiss Hotel is in pretty bad shape

posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Nobody disputes the fact that the former Wiss Hotel building is in rough shape.

A tour of the building yesterday revealed sagging ceilings, holes in the roof, peeling and chipping paint, uneven doorways, junk and garbage strewn throughout the interior and everything of value that could be removed -- claw-foot bathtubs and the old rosewood bar, for example -- gone.

Rich Hauser, an architect from Perry and a building restoration expert, has said previously that it will take nearly $1 million to restore the Wiss. A tour such as the one we took yesterday can only confirm there's a lot of work to be done.

The dollars and cents of the issue comes down to what a potential buyer -- such as the Le Roy, NY, LLC -- might want to do with the building and whether the building is structurally sound.

A structural analysis would be required before building permits for a restoration project could be pulled, and Bob Fussell, currently heading up the LLC, said the LLC won't pay for a structural analysis until it takes title to the building.

It doesn't make financial sense, he said, to go to the expense of a structural analysis if the LLC doesn't own the building.

On the tour yesterday were Bob Lawley, Bob Lathan, village DPW supervisor, Jeff Steinbrenner, the town's new code enforcement officer, and Dan Lang, Town of Batavia code enforcement officer, who was hired by the Town of Le Roy to mentor Steinbrenner as he gets started in his new job.

Lang's recommendation to Steinbrenner is that the building be tagged ASAP as an unsafe structure under NYS Property and Maintenance Code, Section 107.

"My primary concern is that the building (be) sealed up tight so nobody gets in," Lang said. "The main issue is life safety for members of the community."

Next, the village should start the process of declaring the building a vacant structure, under NYS Fire Code Section 311.

Since there is no fire suppression system in place, as a vacant structure, the building would have to be cleared immediately of all combustible material. If the village still owns the building at that point, the village will need to pay for clean up of the interior.

Lang will discuss these points with the village board at its Wednesday meeting.

In Lang's personal opinion, he thinks restoration of the building will cost more than current estimates.

Fussell said he trusts the expert in the matter, Rich Hauser.

The condition of the building now wouldn't be much different than when Hauser examined it several months ago.

If another expert offered up an opinion that it would cost $3 million rather than $1 million, then Fussell said, his position on saving the Wiss would change. But he noted Hauser has a good deal of experience with restoration of buildings in as bad of shape as the Wiss, or worse.

With yesterday's freezing temperature, portions of stairs and floors were covered with ice, even on the second floor. On the third floor, a several square foot area was covered with about an inch-thick layer of ice.

"If it wasn't this cold, it would be drip, drip, drip, all the time," Lathan said at one point during the tour.

Tim Hens, an engineer who owns a neighboring building, said during an e-mail conversation this morning that for a full-effect tour, you really need to go in when the water isn't frozen and you hear water dripping everywhere.

While the ceilings are sagging, walking on the second and third floors yesterday didn't reveal any obvious weakness in the floors.

Hens said when there's no ice, the floors do feel squishy.

Hens wrote:

I think the only way anyone is going know whether it is structurally sound is to gut the place. That is the only way you would be able to see all the bearing walls and/or structural connections to see if there is any rotten/punky wood. In order to do that the asbestos would have to be remediated. It may be possible to save, but someone is going to have to put up about $60-80K just to find out if it can be saved.

The village has requested bids from contractors interested in tearing down the Wiss. Those sealed bids will be opened at 3 p.m., March 8, at the village hall.

Mayor Greg Rogers said if at that point, village trustees have enough information to proceed, the bids will be considered at the board's March 13 meeting.

Tom Spadaro has put an offer in writing, with conditions, to buy the Wiss property once the building is torn down for $125,000. Among Spadaro's conditions is that the ground be filled in and level and that any environmental issues be settled.

If the Wiss comes down, any future owner of the property won't be able to build on the current Wiss footprint, Lang said. The current Wiss structure is partially on a NYS DOT right of way.

Rogers said that at the March 13 meeting, if the trustees have enough information, he will ask for a motion on any one of the options available -- sell to the LLC, sell to Spadaro after the Wiss is destroyed, or take down the Wiss and keep the property for now.

For all of our previous coverage of the Wiss Hotel, click here.

Mark Potwora
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Interesting pictures...I like the one that looks like the leftovers of a beer pong game.

Howard B. Owens
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That's exactly what it is, Mark.

bud prevost
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Interesting that the DOT already has a partial right of way on that corner. To me, that is a sign that we should proceed with the demolition, remediate whatever contamination may exist, reconfigure the intersection to accomodate the large trucks, and turn our focus on the troubled Creekside Inn. Perhaps Mr. Hauser could collaborate with Bill Farmer on returning that property to the jewel it can be.

Howard B. Owens
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How does the DOT right of way argue for taking down the building? The opposite is more true. Once the building comes down, the right of way can never be in private property use again.

The Creekside has nothing to do with the Wiss.

tom hunt
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Tear that dump down. Not only it is a eye sore, but also a safety hazzard

Howard B. Owens
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Save it, and it won't be an eyesore or a fire hazard.

bud prevost
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The right of way indicates that the existing structure is too close to the corner, in the opinion of the DOT. Your article is the first I heard of it.
I have a great many warm and fuzzy memories of the Wiss, but it is what it is...a dilapidated eyesore that doesn't need to be acquired via eminent domain. With the state having a vested interest in the corner(i.e. the right of way), it makes sense that the village approach NY and partner a solution, including sharing the cost.
As far as the Creekside, I'm very aware the village can do nothing. It is, however, every bit as historic a location, and I believe worth saving.
Thanks for the chance to express my opinion, Howard. Even though you think it's wrong.

bud prevost
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BTW, curious about 2 things.... Was Tom Spadaro aware of the right of way when he made his intentions to purchase the vacant property? And, if the LLC does attempt a rehab, where in the world are the rolloffs, contractor vehicles, etc., supposed to park?

Howard B. Owens
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Just because the state owns the right of way doesn't mean the state wants it or would use it. The fact that the right of way exists only matters if the building comes down. The state has done nothing with its right of way on the other side of Lake since those buildings came down.

So what that you and others think it's a dilapidated eyesore? How is that even relevant? A group of private citizens want to put up their own money in a business venture, so what does it matter what anybody else thinks of the building and what they want to do with it and how?

I don't know the answer to your question about Tom. As to your second question, see my previous paragraph.

Jennifer Keys
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The state's ownership of the corner is talked about freely at meetings.

The reality is that the state has been taking DOT money away from our area and diverting it to other areas of the state. Except for new builds they don't seem interested in the infrastructure in this area. There is no guarantee that if the building is gone they will fix the corner. It is conceivable that if torn down the state will do nothing about the corner.

As discussed in previous articles by Howard, in order for anything new to be built on the corner more buildings would need to come down.

Brett DeKruger
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Oh My God Howard give it up. The building is structurally gone, and at that point it's called throwing good money after bad. You ask Bud above,"What does he care"? Well, what do YOU care? Bud lives in the village, and it's a village owned property. That to me says that him, or any other village resident has more of a say in the decision than you do. But hey, that's just my humble opinion.

Jennifer Keys
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According to an engineer it is not gone. I was in there today. Even went up to the third floor.

What about all of the people who do live here who have stated they want it saved? Who have already invested time and/or money?

bud prevost
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.

bud prevost
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Jennifer, you know I appreciate and respect your position on this. That being said, the building needs to be gone. As a frequent walker, I will not walk that corner. The building is not safe, as Howard himself has described it as "dilapidated" several times over the last year. It is a good idea to reconfigure that intersection, which cannot be done with the building as it stands. Bring it down now, don't kick the can down the road.

Jennifer Keys
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I know you do, Bud, & I appreciate that.

Without a guarantee to fix the corner I very reluctant to take the building down. I moved here, as have many, because of Its quaint setting. This is likely the first domino to fall in a series. In addition, if there are experts who say it can be done then why wouldn't we? It is unsafe inside right now, but it is ok outside.

This is hard on my iPhone. Lol. When are we getting an app?

Howard B. Owens
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Brett, so you're a structural engineer now? When did you do a structural analysis and why haven't you shared it with the village?

As for my interest, besides being a Genesee County resident, I'm also a Genesee County business owner with a business, by its nature, that depends on the economic vitality of every corner of the county. The future of that corner is a significant economic issue for not just Le Roy, but the entire county. So, yes, I do feel I have just as much of stake in the issue as Bud.

And I never said to Bud, "what does he care?" I asked why does it matter whether he thinks it's an eyesore. As far as I know, he's not a member of the LLC, so it's not his money at stake. The issue of whether it's an eyesore or dilapidated is completely irrelevant to the discussion. A group of private citizens is thinking of putting money into investing in a building. What the rest of us think of their plan or their vision is completely irrelevant. It's their money and their decision.

It may be inevitable that the Wiss must come down, but so far nobody with the expertise to make such a pronouncement has come forward with evidence that the building is beyond saving.

The entire economic future of the village hangs in the balance of what happens with the Wiss. If it comes down unnecessarily, it could be an economic disaster for the village. There may be a domino effect, and there's not guarantee another disastrous development like Walgreens won't go in on that corner.

So far nobody has put forward a compelling argument for tearing down the Wiss.

And nobody has been able to offer up a sound answer to the question, "Why not give the LLC a chance to see what it can do with the Wiss?"

Tom Frew
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I can shoot holes in both sides of this issue. In the perfect world, let the LLC fix the building under some oversight by the Town/Village Zoning Officer. There needs to be a contracted timeline or you'll end up with bookend half finished buildings (like the Creekside). The Village should not sell the building under speculation that the funds will suddenly appear.

Government operates slowly, its designed intentionally that way. This has been a year as it was an issue in the last election. The process has alloweded plenty of time for the LLC to assemble funding commitments. If the Village turned the property over to the LLC tomorrow for $10K, when would the LLC be ready to start resurrection? What funding is available now for engineering, design, legal, trades work, contract management, etc?? Is there $1M of commitment? If so, why wouldn't the Village Board agree to sell? If not, this has dragged long and an eyesore continues Either way, the Village now is at a point of decision.

Man, if its not tourettes we're feeding for public display, its this building. Let's get off dead center and save the building or demolish. I'll add that it is very sad the building has been allowed by the former owners and our government to erode to this situation.

William Grayson
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O.K. I've refrained from commenting on this for some time but I feel compelled to say..

Howard, "The entire economic future of the village hangs in the balance of what happens with the Wiss"?

I don't think there are as many people drinking the Kool-aid as you and your's think there are.

This village has survived factory closings and "water-gate" I'm confident that it will be here for some time to come.

thomas riggi
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as a resident of the village , i also think the building should come down.i do have a couple of questions . 1. how much money has we the tax payers of the village have spent on this building to date ( ie insurance etc.) and has the offer of the llc going to cover the cost of what we the tax payers have already spent on this building. now we cant recoup it all but there offer seems low. 2. there has got to be asbestos in this building plus lead how much is that cost for removal. and is it not a wooden building with a brick exterior. with reports that i have read in your paper it seams like no one wants to stick there neck out (structural engineers) and state the actual state of that building.this last visit by the code officers seems like the real deal of the building.i must say i have read most of these articles on this and can read between the lines of some of these comments and to put a park with grass on that corner seams to me the way to go they way to go. after all a painter has a clean slate before he creates a master piece. would seam to me a great ideal. after all we the tax payer have already have investment in that 14 plus square foot of land that can be turned into (in my opinion) a more attractive building other than apartments, in which there are plenty in this town, and whats wrong with future growth instead of the same ole same ole.

Howard B. Owens
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William, if the village had done so well through the factory closings, we wouldn't be having this debate.

If you think sound economic facts that come from experts in the field are drinking Kool-Aid, well, I'd like to know what you drink.

What's interesting to me, I've been spending a good deal of time in Le Roy recently, and everywhere I go, scores of people come up to me and want to talk about the Wiss, and 100 percent of the time, they're in favor of saving it.

Like I said before, I'd like to see one person come up with a sound, logical reason for why the LLC shouldn't be given a chance.

Raymond Richardson
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I don't understand why people are against a private developer, using their own funds, and hasn't, to anyone's knowledge, applied for any PILOT or EDG incentives to develop this property.

Why would anyone raise a stink over that? What any of us thinks is of no importance to the developer.

Jennifer Keys
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1. As to date we have spent approximately $6,000 on this building and the LLC has offered $10,000 for it. It had been only $2,000 until we spent $3,950 on an asbestos survey which needed to be done in order to go out to bid for demo.

2. Yes, there is asbestos and the recent survey stated there will have to be abatement done. It will go out to bid and close in time for the board to review the bids at the 3/13/13 meeting. Previous verbal estimates for demo have been $148,000-$250,000 to demolish depending on asbestos. This will be tax payer funding.

3. The Village's engineer went through it in December and wrote a report stating that rehabilitation was still a legitimate option; therefore, yes an engineer has been through it and "stuck their neck out" so to speak.

Also, at our last Village Board meeting it was clearly stated in no uncertain terms that the lot will not be big enough to build on, so we are no longer talking about the demolition of one building, but the likely demolition of several buildings on Main Street.

There is no plan for what would happen next if the building is demolished. We have evidence in Mt. Morris, Bergen, Brockport, Perry as to what can happen when perservation as a form of revitalization takes place. We also know that many people move to our community because of the "quaint" village feel.

So, we are at a cross roads; we can continue to expend tax payer dollars on this without any guarantee of what is on the other side, but will likely lead to what many see as the demolition of our Main Street, or we can take the $10,000 and sell it to a group who wants to preserve it and already has as much funding as legally can be obtained without an agreement from the Village and an LLC that includes contractors. It is a leap of faith either way. One way costs us without a certain return. The other gives us money and if for some reason the naysayers are correct we can tear it down later, or if they are not correct the village citizens get a beautiful building that continues to anchor a beautiful main street. Of course, code and zoning will be involved. It has to be.

Finally, the feasibility study was a good faith effort to show people that the LLC was serious about this project. It is only a suggestion and does not have to result in appartments, a fact made clear at our last meeting.

Brett DeKruger
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No Howard I'm not a structural engineer. I am however a structural inspector. I actually just wrapped up my end of a project involving a building in Buffalo that was built in the 1820's. It's a great building, and it definitely warranted saving. So what's your structural knowledge Howard?

Howard B. Owens
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Brett, have you done a structural analysis of the Wiss? You made a statement that it's structurally unsound. I'd like to know based on what examination of the building? Have you filed a report with the village? What proof do you have to back up your statement?

I've offered no opinion one way or another on whether the building is structurally sound, you have, so my knowledge or lack of it on structural engineering is rather irrelevant.

As for what somebody with expertise in the subject who has been in the building has to say about it, see Jennifer's #3 above.

In fact, read all of Jennifer's comment. It's very sensible.

The village is faced with two choices: expend a good deal of taxpayer money to tear down the building with no plan for what happens next, and what happens next could turn out to be horrible for the village; or, give the LLC a chance, and if the LLC is successful, it's great for the village, and if it fails, the building can still be torn down, but at least there has been an effort to do something positive for the village.

I think what Chief Chris Hayward had to say at the last village meeting is very important to keep in mind:

"When the mayor asked me back in March to stay on and not retire, part of our discussion was about what my motivations were for leaving and what would motivate me to stay," Hayward said. "One of the motivations I talked about for leaving was that in almost 30 years we’ve turned from a community that always worked together to get things done to a community that always looks for reason not to do things.

"Robbins Nest," he added, "we came up with reasons not to do it. The pool. We came up with reasons not to keep it open. I think we need to turn back into that community that looks for reasons to get these things done. ... I just think we’re coming up with reasons not to do something that might have a positive impact on the community."

Gary Spencer
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Sell the darn building to the LLC if they want to put $1Million+ into it who am I to stop them?

carol grasso
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I don't live in Leroy but we eat there every week. I think you should save the building if possible! They took down all our buildings on Main St.
in Batavia and look what we got! A DEAD horse and we are still feeding it today trying to save it. I guess you call it a mall? Do the reserch and make the right choice! Good luck you'll need it!

Eric [Rick] von...
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It is a very good thing, that Entrepeneurs of the past did not listen to narrow minded SHEEP who had no vision, It is Private money keep out of that part

Brett DeKruger
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Well Howard, I'll put my structural knowledge up against your journalism capabilities any day. Why is it that whenever anyone challenges your opinion on a subject, you come back at them and act like a child? It's a wood framed structure, with a roof and walls that have been leaking FOR YEARS !!!!!!!! Do the math !! Look at the bowing exterior walls and the shifting door and window frames, and then explain to me how there isn't structural degredation happening. Get a clue Howard. My God, above you mention how 100% of the people you talk to when in LeRoy are for saving the building. Have you ever stopped to think that may be because you're only associating yourself with those people that are for the LLC? I see above that the village's engineer stated that rehabbing it is still an option. Ok great. Go with that then. Have at it. I wish you well, but when you all get knee deep into it and realize the rehab will take waaaaaaaaaaaaay more than anyone expected, and all of the money up to that point has been wasted, don't say I didn't tell you so. BTW Howard, how much are YOU putting up out of YOUR pocket to help fund the rehab?

William Grayson
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.

Jennifer Keys
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Brett, we definitely agree on one point at least, that it's their money and they should be able to spend it the way they want.

Howard B. Owens
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Brett and William,

Where do you get that I'm defensive or that I have come back at anybody "like a child"? I've leveled no attacks nor hurled any insults.

Who's being defensive here?

I've been open in comments about my opinion on this topic from the beginning. At no point has anybody in person, on the phone, in e-mail or otherwise accused me of not representing their side, their position, their quotes inaccurately or untruthfully. Everybody has had an equal chance to have their say both in stories and in comments. The feedback I've gotten from both sides is that my reporting has been fair, honest and accurate.

This article itself is certainly no favor to the LLC, and I knew that would be the case before I ever asked to tour the building, but I thought as a matter of being fair to all sides, I should provide pictures and a description as what it's actually like inside the building.

The idea that I'm somehow supposed to not have an opinion on the matter is a very old and outdated way to look at journalism (actually, it's a late-20th-Century way of looking at journalism that doesn't comport with the prior history of journalism).

The fact is, you don't like what I have to say, have no reasonable response to it, so now you can only go into personal attack mode. That's fine if that's all you've got, but let's be honest about it.

It's a bit of a straw man to say that I need to be able to invest in the project to have an opinion on it. The merits of my argument stand on their own regardless of who I am, what I do or how much money I have. In fact, if I had the money to invest, you would be accusing me of having a vested interest and was therefore biased in that regard.

You want to express your opinion, fine. This is an open forum for all opinions. But just because I or somebody else disagrees with you, don't get defensive and accuse people debating unfairly. That's rather disingenuous.

"Have you ever stopped to think that may be because you're only associating yourself with those people that are for the LLC?"

Did you stop to think that I'm largely talking about people whom I've never spoken to before in my life, who came up to me and volunteered their opinion?

And I'm still waiting to hear a sound logical reason why the LLC shouldn't be given a chance to invest their own money as they see fit. What you William is not material until the LLC's offer has been accepted by the village.

"It's a wood framed structure, with a roof and walls that have been leaking FOR YEARS !!!!!!!! Do the math !!"

That's still not a structural analysis. That's just an opinion. I don't think the LLC is interested in making its investment decision based on the opinion, no matter how expert, who hasn't done the actual work to make an informed opinion.

Kyle Couchman
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William, I think in your whole tirade you fail to realize that this place we are now, is a forum, not the news. Opinions and viewpoints can be aired here and just because Howard reports the news, that doesnt eliminate his right to voice opinions here. As has been pointed out however, there is no risk or issue with letting the LLC have a crack at restoring it rather than the village spending the time and money to tear it down. Especially since the numbers given to the village on tear down costs are BEFORE asbestos remediation and there is lead paint remediation to do as well.

As for Brett, well I think he is doing himself a very bad dis-service because if he is a structural inspector, and he is giving an "opinion" without actually examining just making assumptions based on superficial observations. I think it would call into question his ability to separate facts from an inspection of a building from his pre judgements on a building. Especially since in this case it has been gone through by the Village Engineer....

Jennifer's comment said it best, Either the village spends the money plus asbestos abatement costs, and takes the financial hit with a chance of no return on investment. Or they take in the money and possibly gain a property back on the tax roles and other benefits, all positive outcomes at best. Or at worst the LLC fails and they spend the money and tear it down anyway.... Doesnt common sense dictate that It's better to try and fail than to have never tried at all? All the naysayers still buy lottery tickets even though the chances of their success are even worse than the LLC's

Brett DeKruger
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Never argue with a fool. They'll make you stoop to their level and then beat you with experience. Sage advice that I should have heeded.

Kyle Couchman
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I think a better quote to have used is... "Stupid is as stupid does" Brett

DOUGLAS MCCLURG
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Opinions get thought about and either strenghten your thoughts for,or against your original thought/opinion.
Save the Wiss..I would like to know the projected Income for the property once it's up and fully operational.Are those numbres realistic for the investors..up or down,That corner will not destroy or save the town???

Brett DeKruger
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Kyle, your opinion means nothing to me. You comment on damn near everything that Howard puts on this site. To me, that says that your just another run of the mill know it all.

Kyle Couchman
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Brett.....I'm not the one making assumptions, but I am glad to share opinions rather than hide my head in the sand. Thats what this forum is for Brett sharing of opinions.

Mark Brudz
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Amazing how when discussions drift from facts to opinions just how personal things seem to get

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