Park District considering options for new headquarters
1 year, 9 months ago by Jamie Busen, QuincyJournal.com
Condition of Emerson Community Center is a factor in the possible move
The Quincy Park District could move out of Emerson Community Center within the next few years.
Last month during a Board of Commissioners retreat, the group reached a consensus that it doesn't want to spend money on improvements for the aging, problem-ridden facility.
"Why keep putting these big Band-Aids on a building that's 100-plus years old?" said Board President John Frankenhoff. "Why stay in a place that's falling apart?"
The District obtained the building from the Quincy School District in the 1970s. The center was originally a school, and was built in two sections - one around 1905 and one around 1930.
It houses the offices for the District, classrooms rented out by members of the public and is the site for a few park programs. A little less than a dozen people employed by the District work in the offices.
Within the last year, the Board has heard a handful of presentations on needed repairs to the building, which is located at 1310 Washington.
Late last year, Commissioners heard the results of an engineering study done to determine the work needed to improve the ventilation and reduce moisture surrounding mold problems. Klingner & Associates determined the building has numerous defects that added up to $540,900.
Commissioners talked at length about the need for the repairs. Frankenhoff, back then, said they could get a "new building, much smaller and much more efficient" instead of committing to spend that kind of money. Commissioners authorized the District to apply for a PARC grant for $315,000.
In the District's Capital Improvement Plan, $203,500 is listed as being needed for various repairs including replacing sections of the roof and repairing some walls. Snow and ice damming on the flat roof above the gym area caused more than $80,000 in damages last winter.
And this money is just to fix defects - not to do upgrades. Electrical and plumbing upgrades are also needed.
"We've gotten three or four decades out of it," Frankenhoff said of Emerson. "But then there was a mold problem, the heating and cooling is constantly needed to be repaired, we had the problem last year with water leaking into the gym. So we'll fix the roof - and then what?"
Frankenhoff said: "If that money fixed the building completely, I could live with that. We can fix this much, but there's more to come."
The previous Board voted to apply for various grants to fix the building. Frankenhoff, who has long had the opinion another venue would serve the District better, brought the issue up again after April's election. New Board members Jeff VanCamp and Tom Ernst support taking a look at other options, Frankenhoff said.
"I think it's time we seriously look into it. (Emerson) does have so many issues and so many problems," Ernst said. "If you put hundreds of thousands of dollars into it, and you don't get anything but a year or two after that, what good is there?"
There are numerous options and issues on the table. The District is waiting to hear if it received grant money. If money is awarded, Frankenhoff said, they'll need to decide whether to accept it or not. If they take the money, fix the issues and then sell the building - will there be repercussions from the State? If they sell the building to someone who will just knock it down - why spend money on a new roof when it would have no value?
The District could build a new office building or lease. The Commission has many decisions ahead.
"What would it cost to relocate, to build a building? There's a lot of good things down there at Emerson, how do you replace that?" Ernst said. "Part of what we talked about at the retreat was, 'What do we do? Do we want to keep the same functions?'"
Frankenhoff's opinion is they should build an office building in Reservoir Park at 24th and Cedar with a large meeting room. They'll need to figure out where to hold classes - such as the popular Zumba ones - and adult dances. But the majority of the events the District offers are at its parks and other properties.
Frankenhoff said he understands the community might not want to help pay for an office building, but leasing would just throw money away - "The Park District isn't going to go out of business."
If the grant money doesn't come through, he continued, "We will do whatever we need to do." But the decision seems to have been made that the District will not spend more money on Emerson.
"Unless it's a serious emergency, we are going to try to avoid any major repairs," he said.
In the retreat minutes, it states Commissioners discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the Community Center. Executive Director Dan Gibble suggested looking at what it would cost to lease another space for office and/or programming and bring options to the Board, as well as what it would cost to walk away from Emerson.
Gibble has been tasked with gathering financial information to make comparisons in the short future. He has also been asked to get an informal appraisal and determine the value of the property.
Ernst said now is definitely the time to have these talks.
"The longer you delay, the more money you have to put into the building for upkeep," he said. "There are so many good things about the building, but is it worth staying there and just throwing money and more money into it? We're not trying to spend more money. We're trying to do the right thing."