Submitted by Bob Fussell:
It’s a mystery.
On 3-13-13 three trustees voted “no” to sell the Wiss Hotel to the Le Roy LLC for $10,000, and “yes” to pay a Grand Island demolition company $132,000 to destroy the building. The Board also paid almost $4,000 for an asbestos removal study, and will pay between $5,000 and $10,000 more to another company to monitor the air quality during the demolition, making a hit to the taxpayers of at least $151,000, and that’s only what they’ve committed to spend so far.
But it seems that only those three know why they cast those votes. (One of the “no” voters is a member of the Conservative Party, and another is a Republican - parties that say they strongly oppose spending taxpayer dollars.)
One of the three said, about his community, “we’ve gotten better” after other Village buildings were demolished. But, he didn’t tell us if Village taxpayer paid for those demolitions, or present any proof that Le Roy actually got “better” because of the demolitions.
Many Le Royans disagree with that trustee. They believe the demolition of those older buildings is, instead, directly related to our economic decline that’s been spiraling downward at an ever-increasing rate over the last 50 years. This decline, many believe, began decades ago when a mansion was demolished and replaced with what is now Save A Lot.
All three of the “no” voters said they gave the issue “a lot of thought” -- one claiming he “lost sleep over it.” Others claimed they spoke to a lot of “people” about the issue.
But what “people” did they talk to? And, what expertise and knowledge did these people have that convinced the three to vote to demolish?
Taxpayers don’t know the answers to those important questions because the three won’t answer them. (I specifically asked them and they refused to disclose the names of the people they spoke to, as if they were members of a secret club, instead of elected officials in a free and open democracy. I asked them to tell me who they spoke to, because all three admitted they aren’t experts in demolition or rehabilitation, so they had to get their knowledge and information from others.)
All three admit they “respect” the “hard work” done by the LLC. But, of course, that’s because the LLC earned their respect by doing much hard work, such as:
Hiring an outstanding architect to do a study to answer important questions, such as - (1) Is the structure of the Wiss too far gone to save? And (2) Can the restored building be profitable for investors?
That architect, Rick Hauser, could be the best person in Western New York to answer those questions. He not only obtained a master's degree in architecture from one of the top three architectural schools in America, the University of Virginia, after graduating from Cornell, and teaching architecture at Hobart University, but also, most importantly, has rehabbed buildings that were in much worse condition than the Wiss, and did it in a way that revitalized communities.
Former Le Roy mayor Jim DeLoose said in a comment on The Batavian that, “Le Roy has a very low-median income …. What a developer is willing to spend in Le Roy is much different than what they’re willing to spend in Fairport where the median income is approximately 3 times that of Le Roy’s.” This is an admission that Le Roy has reached such a sorry state of financial decline, that we can’t stand up to Walgreens and get it to construct an architecturally appealing building in our community –the kind of pharmacy stronger communities would require it to build. Our squat WALGREENS building, with its huge, bright neon signs, tells potential newcomers that Le Roy is too weak and poor to have an attractive pharmacy and encourages people, who might otherwise want to live, and pay taxes in Le Roy, to move elsewhere. (I doubt that Fairport’s median income was 3 times that of Le Roy’s in the past. If so, why has Le Roy declined while Fairport prospered? Is it possible that Fairport is better managed than Le Roy?)
And despite what some Le Royans claim, Mr. Hauser doesn’t need the Wiss, or Le Roy, to make a fine living. He’s got plenty of work elsewhere. Unfortunately for Le Roy, we need Rick Hauser, much more that Rick Hauser needs Le Roy.
After conducting his study, Mr. Hauser answered "no" to the first question the LLC asked him and "yes" to the second, so the LLC moved forward in its attempt to save, not just the Wiss, but Le Roy itself.
The LLC then consulted four highly respected local contractors, to investigate the issue -- Joe Condidorio, of Whitney East, Jerry McCoullough, of Ryan, Bryan Colton, of Master Care, and Jim Sickles, of Sickles Corporation. All investigated and agreed the project was doable, and showed interest in the restoration project.
The LLC also prompted research into the question of the owner of the land where the Wiss is located and learned that the State owns part of it, and that once the Wiss is demolished the size of the portion of land left for the construction of a new building will be smaller.
When the LLC asked the architect and contractors what it would cost to rebuild the Wiss after it was demolished, they said it would cost much more because, even though the building is a filthy, moldy mess, the building’s “shell” is still intact, meaning the new (smaller) building would have to be rebuilt from scratch. One contractor said that about 25% of the rehab work is already completed, because the foundation, and the rest of its shell are sound and straight.
One of the three “no” voters said he hopes the community can “respect” their decisions.
But respect is earned, and it takes more than just “thinking” and “talking” to unnamed “people” to earn the respect of the taxpayers – those who will ultimately pay the upcoming huge bills.
Maybe if the three would give us details of the “work” they performed before deciding to cast their “no” votes, they might earn respect.
Maybe if they told us, for example –
What studies they relied upon when making their decision? (The Village engineers did a study, but that study doesn’t help them, because it concluded the building can be restored.)
The names of the “people” they talked to?
The backgrounds these “people” have in building restoration and/or community revitalization?
The studies these “people” conducted on the Wiss building, or on the economic condition of Le Roy?
The biases or prejudices these “people” might have about the restoration plan?
Any agendas any of these “people” might have that led them to hope to make sweet profits for themselves after taxpayers pick up the demolition tab for them?
Any facts showing these “people” had no confidence in Le Royans to restore the Wiss. “People” who believe Le Royans aren’t smart, driven or community-minded enough to take care of themselves or their community. ”People” who instead, hope a “Big Brother” corporate power from far away will save us. (“Corporations, who, of course, care only about enriching themselves while impoverishing us -- that is by whisking money out of local pockets and slipping it into their faraway pockets.)
Just think –What if the three “no” voters worked for an independent businessman (instead of the taxpayers of our community) whose building was in serious need of repair and had the choice of accepting an offer to sell it for $10,000 or spending a bare minimum of $151,000, to demolish it. And this boss trusted the three to study the question, and to make the right decision. And what if the three came back to him several months later reporting only that they had, “thought about it to the point of losing sleep” and had talked to a lot of “people” and that based on this thinking and talking they rejected the offer to sell, and signed a contract to pay $141,000 of the boss’s money to destroy the building. And when the boss asked the three to tell him the names and qualifications of the people they spoke to before making their decision, the three refused, claiming the names were confidential. How, do you think that boss would react?
In this case, we taxpayers are the bosses of those three. What should we do with them?
It’s great that Le Royans are very concerned about their History.
But, don’t you think it's time we get as involved in our future as we are in our past?