Preservationists in Le Roy still think the former Wiss Hotel building can be saved from the old wrecking ball.
In interviews and conversations this week, Wiss backers said they still don't believe village trustees will want to spend six figures of taxpayer money, creating a vacant lot with an uncertain future and expense, when there is a willing and able buyer ready to step in and rehabilitate the structure.
They hope public pressure over the expenditure -- once the cost is known -- will build, and that more people will come forward both to endorse the Le Roy, NY, LLC, and to express their support for retaining some of the charm of the village.
In fact, according to Bob Fussell, more people may show up at tonight's village board meeting to let trustees know how important the issue is to them.
He said he's heard from at least two such people.
The trustees meet at 7 p.m., and since the Wiss isn't on the agenda, any remarks will come later in the meeting during the public comment time.
Meanwhile, the process of requesting bids from demolition companies was delayed a couple of weeks after village officials learned an asbestos survey was necessary before the village could publish an RFP.
Mayor Greg Rogers said the study was completed -- though he didn't immediately have available the results -- and the RFP has been publicized.
The RFP process will give trustees the truest picture yet of just how much it will cost taxpayers to demolish what is perhaps the oldest commercial building in Le Roy.
Informal estimates have ranged from $150,000 to $250,000.
The Le Roy LLC has offered $10,000 for the building and the promise to shore up the building immediately and raise $400,000 to finance restoration.It's unlikely, according to Fussell, that the building could be torn down any sooner than the LLC could shore it up and begin rehabilitation work, negating any concerns over the building's safety.
"My gut feeling is once the community understands the potential cost to demolish the Wiss, we might get a favorable vote at that point," Fussell said.
Rogers has consistently said he doesn't necessarily back the LLC's plans, but thinks their proposal makes the most business sense for the village.
When trustees see the actual price of demolition, it may persuade one or more of them to change their minds.
"I wouldn't say it's a dead deal," Rogers said.
Trustee Jennifer Keys said she's also optimistic that at least one other board member can be persuaded to support the sale of the Wiss to the LLC.
"I hold out hope that until the building is gone, somebody is going to come forward and say something that is going to resonate with other board members," Keys said.
Meanwhile, she said she feels in an odd position. A Democrat, Keys said she feels like she's to the right of some of her colleagues on the issue.
The three trustees advocating the expense of demolition are either Republicans or Conservatives.
"I'm kind of baffled," Keys said. "I must be missing something. I'm generally seen as the most liberal person on the board and I don't see why we would spend this money and not accept $10,000 for the building."
The trustees who so far been backing spending the money are Robert Taylor, Jim Bonacquisti and Mike Tucci.
We tried to reach each of the three men this week to ask a basic question: Why not give the LLC a chance to see what it can do? What's the harm in letting them try?
Taylor said his biggest concern is the people in the LLC. He doesn't think the building can be saved and the people willing to put their own money in the Wiss will lose their investment.
"It's not a question of giving them a chance," Taylor said. "My firm belief is the building is in a condemned condition and they're just pouring their money into a bottomless pit.
"I grew up in this town," Taylor added. "I've known Bob Fussell since he was 2 years old. I haven't seen the list of people in the LLC, but I've lived here for 70 years, so I assume I know them all. Like I said before, I don't want to see anybody pour money down an empty hole."
Taylor said he has fond memories of going to the Wiss as a boy with his parents.
"I remember it when it was in its quote unquote heyday," Taylor said, "and I know what it looks like now."
He said he has it on good authority that the third floor has been suffering from water damage for 30 years and that beams are soaked with water and won't hold a nail.
"I really believe the building is beyond repair," Taylor said.
He also said, "I don't really care what they build. That's not my concern. I don't want them to spend money needlessly."
Bonacquisti also believes getting the actual cost of demolition will help resolve the issue, but not necessarily in favor of the preservationists.
"Despite the folks coming forward now, I can list three times as many folks that agree with our decision," Bonacquisti said in an interview through Facebook messages.
His position hasn't changed, he said.
"I truly believe that corner is worth a lot more empty than having that old building there," Bonacquisti said. "The traffic flow at that four corners is very high and as I have stated in the past, that corner is screaming for some type of retail where we can generate property tax and add to the employment of folks in this area."
The Wiss with apartments on the second and third floor just isn't a good idea, Bonacquisti. There are already too many apartments in Le Roy, he said, plus he knows the building well (he and his wife once lived within 200 feet of the Wiss) and the odor from vehicles, the noise and high traffic volume makes it an unappealing place to live.
He regrets that the village didn't resolve the issue three years ago (which was before he was on the board).
"I also believe taking that building down can fix that corner once and for all," he said. "Have you ever been on Lake Street in the left-turn lane? Pull up to the stop line, only to have to throw the car in reverse as a truck or bus is coming from the east turning north?"
Tucci did not respond to The Batavian's request for an interview.
Keys said she is still confused by her colleagues' position and thinks the LLC proposal should appeal to conservative politicians.
"It's free enterprise," Keys said. "It's people in the community taking care of an issue. It's a group of people who believe in it so much that they've spent their own money to get this far. It just doesn't make sense economically to spend money unnecessarily, even it's as low as $148,000. We could spend that $148,000 on infrastructure."
History: The Wiss has stood in Le Roy for at least two centuries. The original structure was built by Richard Stoddard. Stoddard died in 1810, so the building had to have been erected prior to 1810, according to an article by Le Roy Historian Lynne Belluscio. The article appeared in the Oct. 3, 2005 edition of the Le Roy PennySaver. John Wiss purchased the building in 1869. The hotel was briefly known as the Michel House after George Michel of Wheatland purchased it in 1904. John Hepps purchased it in the 1920s and renamed it the Wiss Hotel, in honor of the previous owner. Don Pangrazio ran the establishment for 40 years before closing it down in 2005. The county acquired the property in 2010 in tax lien foreclosure and immediately deeded it to the village.