I want you to know that the members of your board of trustees are firmly committed to making a decision to determine the future of the Main Building without further delay.
Over the years, the Main Building has been considered for conversion to an assisted living facility, a new high school, a new facility for village offices and school district administrative functions. Less than a year ago, a proposal was under consideration to redevelop a portion of the building into a new village library. For one reason or another, mostly because of questions about feasibility and concern about who would pay the high cost of any redevelopment, the trustees and many of the residents have concluded that each of these proposals has severe limitations.
Before an effective decision can be made on a matter of such critical importance, all of the residents need to know what is possible and what isn't with respect to those buildings. A majority of village residents, including the trustees, have indicated a preference for seeing the Main Building preserved if at all possible. But the residents have also said that they don't want the taxpayers to pay the expensive cost of preservation and restoration. And, despite all the proposals for redevelopment advanced over the years, no one has ever made a systematic assessment to determine what is really possible, and what isn't, as a means of preserving the Main Building without taxpayer expense. We do not want to make decisions regarding the building which experts have advised are impractical, unsupported by a proper analysis or which would require a significant expenditure of taxpayer monies.
This board owes it to all of the residents to determine once and for all whether there is an economically viable alternative for restoring and reusing the Main Building, rather than trying to convert it for an expensive public use that all of us would have to pay for through our taxes. The other alternative is to knock the building down.
To assist us in making a practical determination, the board hired a highly experienced and qualified real estate consulting firm, K. Backus & Associates, to assess whether the Main Building can be restored, reconstructed and redeveloped, collectively, by private sector resources within the existing building envelope for reuse as a high-end residential facility. Ms. Backus' firm has been assisted in its work by a number of other very qualified sub-consultants, including Furnstahl Architecture, Grubb & Ellis and Turner Construction.
The consultant and her associates have completed its feasibility analysis, Phase I of the project, and delivered their first report to the residents in a public meeting Dec. 15. Their analysis has already provided us with information we've never had before about what is feasible for the future of St. Paul's. And the consultant's continued study and advice is critical to making informed decisions regarding the building for the benefit of all the residents.
In today's dollars, the cost to the taxpayers for stabilizing the building - making all of the repairs necessary to prevent further deterioration of the building, but without providing for any public use or occupancy - is projected to be in the neighborhood of $15 million to $16 million.
If we wanted to go further, as some advocate, and restore the Main Building so that a few rooms on the main floor could be used for community meetings or other limited purposes, the cost would be approximately $32 million to $33 million. That's just to get the building up to code, and without having any definitive, long-term use in mind that would guide any interior improvements.
None of us on this board think either of these approaches represents an acceptable expense for village taxpayers and, even if we eventually decide that the building must come down, the cost to the taxpayers would still be $5 million to $6 million.
In undertaking this process, before any positive steps can be taken to preserve the Main Building, home rule legislation is required through our state representatives. Our legislators have asked the board to provide them with specific information describing exactly what the village would do with the Historic Main Building and the 7 to 8 acres occupied by it.
The board's continued use of the consultant's services is essential, for us to respond appropriately to our elected state representatives, and to fulfill our fiduciary responsibilities to you, as taxpayers and residents of Garden City, in deciding the future of the St. Paul's Main Building. We are resolved to resist all efforts to have us to make decisions regarding the building which experts in this area have advised are impractical, unsupported by the analysis, and which would require a significant expenditure of taxpayer monies.
For whatever reason, however, a few village residents adamantly maintain that the Main Building must only be reused for public purposes, and cannot even be considered for any other purpose. Some of them have repeatedly attempted in the past to block any consideration of other viable alternatives for reusing the building, and force a decision that only they prefer. They have consistently opposed even the consideration of other uses for the building, and, as expected, they objected to the consultant's presentation in December. At that time, some of them threatened to sue the board and the village to prevent us from even trying to identify practical and feasible alternatives for restoring and reusing the building without taxpayer expense.
On Jan. 6, the village was served with a summons and complaint on behalf of Thomas Poole, Peter Negri and James Edmund Keating, seeking a judgment that no public funds could lawfully be expended to market the sale or lease of the St. Paul's Historic Main Building until state legislative approval was obtained. In addition, the lawsuit states that if it is determined that the expenditure of public funds to market the sale of the Historic Main Building to a private developer is "an entirely illegal use of public money" the village's consultant, K. Backus & Associates, should be required to repay any monies it has received to the village. Lastly, the plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction from making any further expenditures of public money to "market" the sale of the Historic Main Building to private commercial developers.
We believe that the lawsuit is meritless and that it is not illegal for the village to expend monies to hire a consultant to study the private development of St. Paul's School as a prerequisite to determining whether the village should seek home rule legislation to permit a sale or lease to a private developer. The village intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit and to explore the possibility of appropriate counterclaims against the plaintiffs.