The former Faith Lutheran church facility, has no budget for improvements or maintenance, but officials are optimistic about potential uses for the First Avenue structure.
Since August, the group, led by Mayor Don Larson, has met monthly to discuss potential short- and long-term uses for the building, which has not received a new title yet. The committee will make a recommendation to Seaside City Council in the coming weeks.
During two volunteer workdays in mid-October, the committee took care of simple tasks necessary to help prepare the building, at 1115 Broadway, for any future use. The group removed trash, organized supplies, vacuumed, cleaned mold and moss from windows, inventoried the city’s assets in the building and secured the facility to keep out trespassers.
The group got the bathrooms functional and the doors secure. A staff member from the Public Works Department is occasionally stopping to detect any break-ins, said Veronica Russell, chairwoman of the committee.
“I don’t know how much more we can do as a committee until the city decides what it wants to do in terms of a budget,” she said. “Our job is just to propose potential uses based on our consensus.”
The city cannot incur costs for the building until it determines where the money would come from. The city purchased the building for $220,000 in September 2014 but did not budget for any improvements or maintenance of the building in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Payments for the building’s electricity — used occasionally when the committee meets — are coming out of the city’s budget for City Hall, City Manager Mark Winstanley said.
“There isn’t any budget for this building,” he said, adding any funding decisions must come from City Council. In order to create a budget for the building in this fiscal year, Winstanley said, council “would have to take money away from other things they’ve already budgeted for.”
The main purpose of the acquisition last year was “to make sure the city held the property because of its location,” Winstanley said. The property is located west of the Seaside Public Library and across Broadway from Broadway Middle School, the Seaside Visitors Bureau, the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District pool and the skate park.
The committee’s next step is to share information with Larson and present recommendations to City Council on his behalf. Council then can narrow down potential uses based on what they determine is appropriate and feasible.
After collecting input from their respective interest groups and other members of the public, the committee created a recommended action plan, with three phases.
The first recommended phase is to prepare the building for “limited use” and take advantage of the two available offices. The Necanicum Watershed Council and the Clatsop-Nehalem Tribal Council have expressed interest in using the offices, if or when they are available. Members of the committee said it is important to get people in the building before winter to protect the city’s investment in the property.
Either arrangement would be a “win-win” for the city, according to minutes Russell prepared from an Oct. 7 committee meeting.
There would be a presence in the building to prevent vandalism and break-ins, running water to keep pipes from freezing in winter and use of the heater to mitigate mold and mildew.
After speaking with former Public Works Director Neal Wallace and Rich Russell, of Russell Construction, the committee seeks to address some items prior to occupancy of the office spaces, among them making the building safe and secure, cleaning mold and mildew, testing functionality of at least one bathroom and obtaining the property occupancy permit. Several of those items were completed at the volunteer work party in October.
The second proposed phase, preparing the building for public uses with less than 75 occupants, would require more extensive repairs and maintenance. Some possible projects might include repairing structural issues in the cinder-block walls around the northwest sanctuary doorway; replacing the furnace; removing structures such as the altar, the cross on top of the building and the exterior cyclone fencing; making at least one bathroom handicap-accessible; and painting interior walls.
The third phase would be to improve the property for public uses with more than 75 occupants, such as a speaker’s series, plays, concerts or other events. The committee identified potential improvements such as putting in new flooring that is durable and water-resistant; leveling the steep hill on the west edge of the property; updating the landscaping in the front yard; and other items to be determined.
Nothing is guaranteed at this point and improvements will depend on what purpose the facility is given.
Winstanley said the council could choose a variety of courses after receiving the recommendations and the process to get the building or property in use could take a long time. The council also could create a standing committee to continue strategizing for the building’s use or remove the building to use the property in another way.
He encouraged the committee members to be present when they discuss their recommendations with council, which likely will happen in December when Larson is available.