By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – The City Council voted 4-2 Sept. 26 to seek new bids on the McKinley School repurposing project “for the community good,” with provisions sought by council members incorporated into the bid request.
The motion by Councilman Daniel Galeski passed with Galeski, Councilmen Ted Miciura and Leonard Sabuda, and Councilwoman Sheri Sutherby-Fricke in favor, and Councilmen Donald Schultz and Kevin VanBoxell opposed.
The motion calls for proposals to be presented at the Oct. 10 City Council meeting.
Community activist Corki Benson wrote a letter to the council following a vacant school fire in Taylor, calling for the council to take action.
Benson said McKinley has no active fire suppression system or alarms, and a fire started by trespassers or homeless people could spread quickly.
“Vacant buildings are targets for arson and rarely catch fire by chance since power and utilities are shut off,” Benson said in her letter to council. “Smoke from a fire could contain several toxic gases … asbestos, mold, lead-based paint, or burning vinyl and PVCs.”
She said in the event of a fire, city tax money would be needed to demolish the building and to remediate residual toxins.
“McKinley, in the center of a vibrant neighborhood, is a dangerous structure with or without a fire at this point,” Benson said. “I hope this information will be seriously considered next time (a) development proposal for the vacant McKinley School is again before Mayor and Council.”
Mayor Joseph Peterson said in a letter submitted to the record at the Aug. 29 council meeting that based on the number of vacant lots in the city, as well as stalled projects, there is a lack of demand for property on which to build new single-family houses.
Peterson also said in his letter that the demand for market rate senior residential units is projected to increase in the future.
“Holding on to vacant property in defiance of current and future market conditions is just illogical,” he said.
Peterson also said rental units do not place a higher demand on city services or provide less property tax revenue, and senior housing creates more diversity than single family homes.
Past concerns over rental properties in the city – absentee landlords, increased demand for police presence and transient student stress on the school system – is not a factor with the proposed market rate senior housing, he added.
“The taxes paid on the project would ultimately be more than any other option presented to the city,” Peterson said. “The historical building will be saved.”
The next action on the project will be at the Oct. 10 council meeting. For more information, go to wyandotte.net.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)