Demolition of former school buildings at Florence looks promising


News editor

Florence city officials greeted news of a possible agreement for purchase of two former school buildings with cautious approval Monday night at the city council meeting.

Michael Miller of El Dorado was on the agenda to address the council about his wishes and expectations in regard to the buildings.

He told the mayor and councilmen he has not yet purchased the buildings from current owner James Willoughby, but had entered into discussions with Willoughby and was seeking some guidance from the city before completing an agreement to buy the buildings.

"I need to know exactly what your expectations are for these buildings," he said.

He told the officials he is in the demolition and construction business and his interest in the property is to salvage the brick, stone, and any other materials that might be marketable.

"I don't want to fix anything up or try to save either building," he said after Mayor Greg Winn explained that the only recourse for the limestone structure is demolition although the brick building could possibly be saved if Miller was interested in investing enough money to bring it up to code.

"My only interest is the salvage," he said.

Miller didn't have a formal proposal, but said he would be willing to enter into an agreement with the city if a timeline on demolition could be worked out.

"I am willing to secure the area, keep it mowed, and get the dead pigeons removed," he said. "And I will move in a security structure — probably like a fifth-wheel camper — and have someone on-site all the time.

"Work will be done on the buildings every day, except the weekends," he added. "I expect it will take me about a year to get them down, move the materials I intend to sell, remove the debris, and clean up the site."

He said he would want to sell the land back to the city.

"I don't want to own the ground," he said.

Some discussion was had about the status of a garage building on the site, but no agreement was reached.

"That is something we can look at. I have no desire to keep it, but you might if you get the land back," said Miller.

Councilman Randy Mills instructed city clerk Janet Robinson to get Miller's contact information and said the council would be willing to sit down with him after getting some input from city attorney Marilyn Wilder.

"I have some reservations about this lasting a year," said Mills. "But if you have a timeline and it is reasonable I see no reason why we can't work something out.

"We have a situation with Mr. Willoughby right now because he did not meet his deadline," said Mills. "We need to see that through."

Miller indicated he had no interest in getting involved with the city's issues with Willoughby.

"I just want to know what the city would expect from me if I proceed with this," he said. "I wanted to hear from you guys about how you want this done."

The council agreed to contact Miller as soon as they have a chance to review the situation with Wilder and draw up a contract.

Council members also looked on as Winn signed a contract for the city to become the owners of the gymnasium building on the current OASIS campus.

The deed will be recorded and the city will enter into negotiations with Marion County Special Education Cooperative to rent the facility to them.

In other business, council members:

— approved warrant 2008-12 in the amount of $6,136.69.

— agreed to purchase chemicals needed to control mosquitoes and have city employees begin spraying.

— approved an earlier request by Jeff Gore to move a mobile home closer to a property he owns on Seventh Street. The age of the trailer he plans to relocate meets the requirements of the city's ordinance governing the presence of mobile homes within city limits.

— scheduled a special meeting June 30 for the purpose of reviewing 2009 budget issues in-depth. Special meetings are open to the public.

— unanimously approved an additional $400 expenditure to install a handicap accessible ramp at the northeast corner of the Ninth and Main intersection when the street is repaired.

Since there are no residences or sidewalks there, council members were not sure if ADA issues needed to be addressed at the time of the repairs or if regulations could be met at a later date. They agreed to go ahead and install the ramp entrance now.