After years of discussion, speculation and controversy, is a troubled structure in Mount Airy finally reaching a date with destiny today?
That could be the case during a meeting beginning at 2 p.m., when the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners is slated to consider a resolution to solicit contractors for the demolition of the sprawling Koozies building.
However, one board member desires more information before voting to take that route.
“I want to know what contact we’ve made with the owner,” Commissioner Jon Cawley said Tuesday regarding an out-of-town entity involved.
The structure fronting Franklin Street, which also is bordered by North South and West Pine streets, has been a problem for years — sitting vacant after housing a private club known as Koozies which closed, and gradually deteriorating to a dangerous state.
Council members set the stage for today’s possible move by taking action in February giving the owner of the property — National Decon Holdings LLC of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma — 90 days to repair or demolish the structure, once a Quality Mills facility.
The commissioners were told then that the building not only had become unfit for human occupancy, but posed an “imminent danger,” based on a determination by Chuck Morris, city codes enforcement officer.
“However, said owner has failed to take any corrective action to bring the building up to the standards” of the City of Mount Airy Code of Ordinances, states the resolution to be considered this afternoon.
“The building remains in a dilapidated and unsafe condition,” the proposed resolution adds, nearly three months after the compliance deadline on May 18. “Two fires have occurred inside the structure in recent months which have been linked to homeless persons living there.”
Meanwhile, the roof structure over a large portion of the building has collapsed, leaving an expansive exterior wall along Franklin Street largely unsupported, the resolution before the commissioners goes on to say.
“Other structural elements of the building are decaying and dangerous,” it says. “These conditions cause or contribute to blight, disease, vagrancy or fire or safety hazard(s) — accordingly, this building is found inimical (harmful) to public safety and deemed a public nuisance.”
If the resolution is approved by the board today, City Manager Stan Farmer will be directed to prepare a request for proposals to seek qualified and insured contractors for its demolition and safe removal of all debris from the site.
“There’s no doubt that all or part of that building needs to come down — that’s not the question,” Commissioner Cawley said Tuesday.
The question is how city officials have handled the situation up to now, he explained.
Cawley says he can’t see how the municipality can raze a structure it doesn’t own, which is where contact with the Oklahoma-based party comes into play for him.
“If we have contacted them and they basically have said ‘we’ll deed the property to the city,’ it seems to be a very appropriate step,” he said of seeking demolition proposals. “How we do things is very important.”
The proposed resolution mentions that the owner did not appeal the city’s order for mitigation before the May compliance date and otherwise has failed to act.
Today’s OK of the resolution would include a finding by the board “that the owner has abandoned the intent and purpose to repair, alter or improve the building.”
Mount Airy officials have said the city could legally seize the land left behind to help offset the cost of the tear-down, which is expected to be sizable.
Commissioner Tom Koch had said during the board’s last meeting on July 21 that the municipality was leaving itself open for a possible liability lawsuit by delaying the demolition should the building collapse and kill or injure someone.
Efforts to reach National Decon Holdings this week were unsuccessful. No telephone listing or email address could be found for the company.