WARREN - A building analysis by two local architectural firms recommends abandoning or demolishing two city-owned buildings.
The buildings are the Community Services building, 418 S. Main St., and the Water Department's service building.
The administration commissioned assessments of all city buildings done by the architectural firms of Phillips / Sekanick Architects Inc. and Baker, Bednar and Snyder at a cost of $25,000. The assessment was part of the administration's effort to convince City Council to agree to a bond proposal to focus on building repairs.
Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith
Enzo Cantalamessa, Warren’s safety service director, stands beneath one of numerous stained ceiling tiles being damaged by leaks inside the Community Services Building, 214 Main Ave., Warren. This is one of two city-owned buildings that architects recommend be abandoned.
Representatives of the architectural firms examined exteriors and interiors of the buildings, and reviewed documents that detailed the conditions of some buildings. There were no testings of the electrical, water or heating systems done as part of the analysis.
Approximately $7.8 million worth of repairs and upgrades are needed on the city buildings, according to the reports.
Officials have for several years said something must be done to the Main Street building.
Water leaks have caused an exit sign to fall in the Community Services building, and employees place buckets and garbage cans strategically throughout the building to capture rainwater coming through the ceiling. The foundation appears to be shifting at the middle of the south elevation of the building, according to the report.
"I sometimes have birds flying into my office when one ceiling panel is removed," Michael Keys, executive director of the Community Development department, said. "Because some windows blow in during heavy storms, we have them screwed shut."
If the city decides to move employees out of that building at 418 Main St., the report indicates that the city-owned Van Building could be considered as an alternative site for the three departments.
"We own the building," Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said. "There are an insurance firm and a law firm currently located in the building. This is just something we are considering. There is nothing settled."
Cantalamessa emphasized that moving the three departments to another location is not an alternative to having a One Stop administration building elsewhere in the downtown area.
"We still believe having a one-stop is still the most efficient model," Cantalamessa said. "Our thought is that since we own these buildings, so we need to maintain them."
"Having a one-stop is more efficient because it will save us in maintenance and heating and cooling costs," Cantalamessa said. "It also good to have many of the city's departments at one location."
Concrete blocks in the Water Department's service building show signs of major cracking and separation. Several walls are bowing with holes and motor joints missing. One area appears to have a tree growing out of it.
The building's roof is in poor condition. The interior deck has rusted from the penetration of water. The interior concrete floor has major cracking and multiple holes in it.
Cantalamessa said the administration also wants enough money in the bond to repair and upgrade the city's three fire stations, the municipal building, Packard Music Hall and the city hall complex.
"If we do not do a one-stop, perhaps some of the $9.5 million originally planned to go into it could be used to increase the amount for building renovations and repairs," Cantalamessa said.
In the most recent bond issue proposal, the city proposed spending $2.5 million on building and infrastructure improvements and $2.5 million in road improvements.
The administration previously suggested increasing the amount of money to go into road improvements, but did not say how much it would recommend.
Money for road improvements will be used for non-arterial or neighborhood roads, which cannot be paid for using federal funds or grants.
Councilman Jim Valesky, D-at large, said the reports were an eye-opener.
"It is kind of overwhelming and embarrassing," Valesky said. "It is inexcusable that some of the city buildings have been able to get into the conditions in which they have. We never should have allowed things to get out of control."
Valesky said he believes in the concept of a one-stop, but not in the form previously presented to council.
"The city should look at the idea of expanding the current city hall campus," he said. "The best way to preserve those buildings are to use them.''
Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said the surveys demonstrate the city is not a good landlord of its own properties.
Novak said getting people out of the Community Services building on Main Avenue and renovating the City Hall complex should be priorities.
"We should demand of ourselves what we are demanding from our property owners," he said.
"In my opinion, the idea of a new one-stop building will pass," Novak said. "Support is going towards moving departments in an existing building. All of the buildings that can be repaired, should be repaired before they deteriorate further."
Councilman Vincent Flask, D-5th Ward, said new proposals are expected to be coming from the administration that would reduce the amount of the money needed for a one stop, allowing an increased amount to be used on upgrading city-owned properties.
"We need to address the majority of those options presented in the report," Flask said. "I believe with some of the options that will be presented will reduce costs, therefore money may be geared towards infrastructure improvements."