Two days before the city’s purchase of the Red Cedar Inn was set to close, officials received a last-minute request from the seller.
If the city should decide in the future to sell the building or to stop using it for its intended purpose, Mike Gallagher, the seller, wants the right to take the neon sign in front of the building, as well as the bar and back bar.
Mayor Jeff Palmore said the sign is part of the historic building and has a financial value of thousands of dollars. He said giving it away would reduce the value of the property.
“It’s just not done,” Palmore said. “When selling property, anything that is affixed to the building, it stays with the building. Allowing the former owner to come back and take the sign would reduce the value of the building.”
The discussion took place during the Sept. 26 special meeting to set the tax rate when City Administrator Steve Roth handed Palmore an amended sales contract.
Roth said he and City Attorney Robert Jones believed the mayor could sign the amended sales contract without board of aldermen approval, but Palmore said he would not make a decision without board approval.
“This would be giving away something worth thousands of dollars,” he said. “I will not make that decision. That would be usurping the right of the board.”
Palmore said the city’s track record did not bode well for the future use of the Red Cedar building.
“Keep in mind that we don’t have a good track record with acquiring property,” he said. “We have bought two previous buildings and ended up selling both of them. This is our third building for this purpose.”
Palmore said the sign is valuable both for its historic significance and as a collector item.
Roth said the question of future ownership of the sign had been discussed in the initial phase of negotiations, but no aldermen could recall discussion of the sign.
“I remember we talked about the bar,” Alderman Nick Chlebowski said. “But I don’t remember talking about the sign”
One day later in another special board meeting Sept. 27, aldermen listened to Gallagher’s plea for the items, which he said had a sentimental value to him, and voted unanimously to authorize the mayor to sign the sales contract with the amendment in tact.
Gallagher said he would never seek to retrieve the three items as long as the city owned and operated the building in keeping with its historic significance.
But if the building or its use changed he wanted the three items for his personal property.
Gallagher is the great-grandson of the Red Cedar founder and builder.
The structure was built with logs from the family farm, operated as a restaurant by the family for 80 years, and has served as the offices for Gallagher’s heating and mechanical business there in recent years.
The building, which was constructed in 1932, gained national recognition as a stop on Historic Route 66.
The community, along with state and federal dignitaries, turned out in force when the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 11, 2003, while the Smith family was still operating it as a restaurant.
According to the discussion, Gallagher retains the right to lease the building for six months before turning it over to the city.