Eau Claire is preparing to reject a lowball offer for a former fire station and then get the building tested for asbestos in hopes it could become more marketable in the future.
Several developers had looked at former Fire Station No. 10, 559 N. Hastings Way, in recent months, but were worried that asbestos wrap around hot water pipes was not the only place where the hazardous material is present in the building.
“We had a number of parties that went through the property. Some of the concerns that were expressed was the uncertainty over asbestos and any potential remediation costs for that,” city finance director Jay Winzenz said.
The city only got one offer in its latest round to seek a buyer for the fire station on the city’s east side. Valley Media Works, who had a deal that fell through earlier this year to buy the building for $365,000, offered only $100 this time.
With the bid well below the $365,000 the building was appraised at in 2017, city staff are recommending the City Council reject the offer during its Tuesday afternoon meeting.
The city would then order that the building be tested for asbestos to determine how much of it is present and potential costs for getting rid of it.
“We know there’s asbestos there,” Winzenz said. “We don’t know the extent of it.”
The city would then face the choice of paying to have the asbestos remediated itself or letting potential buyers know costs they would incur to take care of the hazardous material themselves.
At the very least, having solid answers to questions about asbestos would make the building more marketable.
“Developers don’t like uncertainty,” Winzenz said.
The 1949-built fire station is on the southeast corner of the busy intersection of North Hastings Way and Birch Street. Zoned for commercial development, the building is near an auto shop, Dairy Queen, Royal Credit Union office and a strip mall with a Festival Foods grocery store.
The old fire station was vacated in mid-2018 when the city’s new Fire Station No. 10 opened at 820 Malden Ave.
Last year the city sought offers for the old building and got two.
One potential buyer bid $221,000 for the building, intending to convert the main floor into a service business and use the upstairs for living quarters. The city opted to go with the other proposal — a $365,000 offer from Valley Media Works, which wanted to turn the building into TV and radio studios to produce its community programming, plus classrooms and offices. However, after the organization couldn’t raise enough money to complete the sale and requested a lower price, the council decided in spring to seek new offers.
Also on this week’s council agenda:
• The council will vote on buying about 20 acres of vacant land on the city’s west side for $150,000 with the intent of making it into an area where affordable single-family homes will be built.
• The Presto Foundation has offered a $19,950 grant so the city can buy two 40-pound firefighter gear extractors — essentially high-tech washing machines that remove contaminants after firefighting gear is used to extinguish a fire.
• Following the regular Tuesday afternoon meeting, the council will hold its first work session on the city’s 2020 operating budget.