Fulton council will consider demolishing Drives Building

September 26, 2018

FULTON – It looks like Fulton city leaders – at least some of them – have come up with a way to solve the ongoing debate over the Drives Building.

Tear it down.

The City Council voted 4 to 3 Monday to put the potential demolition of the building on the agenda for its next meeting.

The 105-year-old former factory at 1009 First St. has been at the center of a disagreement between the City Council and an exploratory committee over what to to do with it.

The building dates back to 1913, when it served as an office for Fidelity Life Insurance. Drives, a chain manufacturing company for agriculture and industry, bought the building in 1974, eventually giving it to the city in 2010, the year before the company was bought by Timken Co.

The city put the building, assessed at $300,000, up for sale. A $10,000 offer was rejected, and former City Administrator Ed Cannon began investigating how much it would cost to fix the roof.

The Drives Building Committee was formed in 2014 by then-Mayor Larry Russell to gather input on what to do with the building. The committee eventually planned to rehabilitate the building into a community center, which would include an office for the tourism director and an upstairs conference room for larger groups or banquets. It’s given the city two options for renovation, one that costs $685,000 and includes a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, and a lesser option that would cost $578,000.

The council decided in April 2016 to spend no more than $34,000 on the roof, and made repairing the remainder contingent on the Drives Building Committee raising $250,000 in donations, which it did.

Since then, though, the city has parted ways with the group, voting June 25 to ends its affiliation partnership with the committee.

Council members Barbara Mask and Sue Van Kampen, who also chair the committee, said at the time that the taxpayers would end up losing if the building is torn down. In a statement, they said $360,000 had been secured for the building’s repair – $160,000 in the city bank account that must be used for renovation and $200,000 in pledges from local donors – money that would have to be returned if not used.

“Add the [estimated] demolition cost of $160,000, which will be paid by the taxpayers, and the total loss is $520,000,” the statement said.

Fulton Mayor Mike Ottens, however, sees it differently.

The council “has never ‘directed,’ ‘charged’ or ‘asked’ the Drives committee to raise funds and has never ‘stated,’ ‘approved,’ or ‘implied’ that renovations would begin if a certain threshold of fundraising was reached,” Ottens wrote in a February letter to the council. “On Nov. 21, 2016, a request to begin fundraising was made but no vote or action for or against was taken.”

– The Clinton Herald contributed to this article

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