CADILLAC — After years of discussing the issue of what to do with the historic octagonal building, it appears the final decision may be on the horizon.
While nothing has been voted on or ordered, the Wexford County Executive Committee discussed the building once again. The agenda item was put on by board chair Gary Taylor and Wexford County Administrator Janet Koch said the push from the executive committee is to let the public know that demolition is a real option.
"The building is to my mind is a treasure in many ways, but it also is not viable for almost anything right now," she said. "There is no running water and no sanitation. It would cost a lot of money to bring it up to code for use."
She also said in light of the county's finances and the real possibility that revenues from the state will be significantly less than normal, the county doesn't have the money to fix it. While there have been numerous people in the community who have come together to make the historic structure a viable building, they were unable to come up with the money needed. If the structure is to be saved, it ultimately comes down to money.
"The demolition is not happening now. It would take longer discussion and board action. The push is (demolition) is the most likely possibility for the building," she said. "There has been no money or budget for maintenance and certainly not for improvements."
With the current pandemic making budgets extremely tight, it is hard to look at a future where the county would have the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the building to where it needs to be, according to Koch. Grants have been sought, but at the end of the day, she said the octagonal building is a barn that wasn't built for modern activities.
As for when a potential demolition could occur, Koch said commissioners loosely discussed fall, but there is no money in the budget to pay for demolition.
"Ideally, some angel who wants to use it," Koch said on how the building would be saved. "They would give us money for it, but who knows if that will happen. How do you save something out of sentiment? Is that the proper use of taxpayers' money right now?"
Although the committee and commissioners didn't take action and want to get the word out to the public in hopes of the community championing the cause and get involved, she is not sure what will happen. Given the current pandemic and the financial struggles people are facing, Koch said she finds community participation as far as fundraising extremely unlikely.
She also said she has not been instructed to do requests for proposals for demolition, but she has been told to look at ballpark estimates for budgeting purposes. That could mean, the demolition could be something that happens during the next budget year.
"Right now, no decision has been made, but they want to let folks know renovations won't happen on the county dime. If anyone wants to save the building, it is time to seriously step up," she said.
In 2018, the executive committee received an offer to purchase the Octagonal Building for $1 with the end goal to have it removed from the Wexford County Fairgrounds and relocated somewhere else within Wexford County. As with many recent efforts, the sale never came to fruition.
For the past few years, it seems the question of what would become of the building was posed and researched but ultimately no action was ever taken.
With no action or recommendations from the Octagonal Building Committee over the past few years, it was eventually dissolved. That, however, didn't change the fact that something needs to be done as the condition of the building is not improving.
The Wexford County Board of Commissioners voted to close the building in August 2015 after it was found to require major repairs. It was built in the early 1900s.
The initial report, made during summer 2015, described the building as stable in its current state and not in danger of imminent failure. However, the report also noted failure to address the building’s deteriorating condition would eventually result in the loss of the building.
According to the 2015 report, buckled columns are the greatest area of concern, since the failure of a single column would likely cause a rapid, progressive, localized failure of the roof. Other issues listed in the report included the deteriorating condition of the building’s exterior siding and wood decay at the base of the exterior wall surrounding the entire perimeter.