Projects announced earlier this summer are now in standby mode according to local officials.
The former Lincoln County Bank location at 401 West Main Street has been surrounded by a fence and seemingly ready for razing since July. However, according to City Administrator Dave Johnson, the project is now on hold, with no definitive date for start or completion.
Merrill based C&D Excavating initially began work on razing the building earlier this summer, but according to Johnson; the contractor has since halted efforts due to the need for asbestos abatement. Abatement efforts were initiated by a Wausau-based service, but have since ceased. During a Tuesday afternoon interview with the Merrill Foto News, Johnson indicated no sign of a date for work to resume from the contractor, nor a completion date.
In August, the Merrill Common Council ruled 7-1 to uphold a July decision to purchase the former Lincoln County Bank and St. Vincent de Paul Building, as well as adjacent parking lots from RD Properties of Wisconsin, LLC, for a maximum of $140,000 (TID #8 – West Side).
During July’s meeting, initial plans called for the demolition and asbestos abatement of the blighted building prior to purchase, followed by redevelopment of the clean site. Demolition and abatement was set to be performed by Dan Kolehouse of C&D Excavating, who is also the current owner of the property.
As part of the August meeting, City Administrator Dave Johnson stood by his statements made in July, when he advised the council that the building is beyond recuperation, leaving demolition as the only viable option.
“The building is beyond repair or remodel,” Johnson said at the July meeting. “As a matter of fact, St. Vincent left due to estimated costs of roof repairs being over $100,000. The building is not ADA compliant and any historical value to the building’s façade was destroyed when the white bubble wrap was installed. Our goal is to get rid of the blighted building and start over with redevelopment of either a commercial or residential property.”
City finance director Kathy Unertl said a current west side business owner was interested in opening a new business in the area during the August meeting, but will not proceed until the 401 W. Main St. building is gone.
“The building is not worth a dollar,” Johnson reiterated during the August meeting. “The building is not ADA compliant and the roof is in need of repair which St. Vincent could not afford and forced them to move to the Menard Building,”
The former Lincoln County Bank demolition is not the only project placed on hold for the time being.
According to Merrill Area Housing Authority Executive Director Paul Russell, the renovation and expansion of Park Place and the Westgate Apartment Complex initially slated to begin late summer or early fall, is currently at a standstill.
“The Park Place and Westgate Apartments project is now in the hands of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, ” Russell stated .
“The closing of the project and related funding is expected to be completed by the end of October,”
As reported previously by the Merrill Foto News, the project will involve the conversion of public housing to Section8 housing. In summary, the transition will be a matter of conversion of less oversight from the federal level -by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development-to that of more local oversight from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA)-at the state level- and oversight by MAHA at the local level.
“The key factor in the current project delay are the complexities of having multiple financial institutions involved in the funding of multiple projects,” Russell added. “These projects will ultimately require final approval from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.”