Mayor Steve Myers canceled a planned history group tour of the Wintec Building at 1043 E. Osage amid concerns voiced by aldermen that the walk-through would give the wrong impression.
Alderman Carol Johnson raised questions about the tour during the Feb. 5 board of aldermen meeting, saying she had received an email about it.
“Why is our (historical) society and the Eureka Historical Society and the architects touring the Wintec building?” Johnson asked.
Myers said he added the building to the Saturday, Feb. 9, tour to present an idea of how the space could be used as part of a visitor center and museum complex.
The Wintec building formerly housed Wintec Pharmaceuticals and a later sports chiropractor center, but has been empty in recent months.
The structure is located between the former Red Cedar Inn building and Jensen’s Point Park.
The mayor said he believes the building would make a great addition to the park complex and could be used to house the city genealogy center.
“The architects are making a ton of recommendations and the suggestion has been made that we could acquire the Wintec building,” Myers said. “They are very smart. They’re making recommendations and we should listen.”
“I’m not doubting that they (the architects) are smart, but I didn’t vote to hire the architect to tell me how to use the building,” Johnsons responded. “We’re a city committee. This tour is giving false hope to people on our committee and the Eureka group. Why are we walking through something we don’t own?”
“Because it is there,” the mayor answered. “It might be something you would want to look at down the road.”
Alderman Andy Nemeth said the tour puts in people’s mind that the city is buying the Wintec building.
“It is a possibility,” the mayor said.
“Not as long as I’m on the board it’s not a possibility,” Nemeth said.
Myers said there is no thought of buying the Wintec building at this time, but the architectural firm has extensive experience in writing grants, which could help pay for the building.
Alderman Herb Adams said aldermen had discussed the purchase of the Wintec building more than once and each time aldermen rejected the idea.
“The idea or dream of the museum going into the Wintec building goes against the promise that was made to the public in the purchase of the Red Cedar,” Adams said. “We should be touring a building we own and only that building. The museum’s new home is the Red Cedar.”
Adams said 14 years ago the city looked at the Red Cedar building for a museum and visitor center and did not buy it.
Over the years, the city considered the Zitzman building, the Wolf building and the Hoven building for the same purpose. The city bought the Wolf building for a museum, later sold it to the Knights of Columbus and moved the museum collection into the Community School.
“Now we’re 360 degrees, back to the Red Cedar,” Adams said. “The city told the public the museum would be in the Red Cedar.”
Adams said the city bought the historic structure without a plan and no idea of the cost to renovate the building for use as a museum.
“We don’t know if it will cost $1 or $1 million,” he said. “Now I hear that we want to place businesses in there and a cycle place in that building. We’re talking about everything except the museum.”
Adams asked for a guess of what it might cost to renovate the Red Cedar.
“We’re a small town, with a small budget,” he said. “We have to do things in a small way and inch our way. Let’s work on Red Cedar. Let’s keep our word to the public. We do not need another building.”
City Administrator Steve Roth said it could cost as much as $500,000 to renovate the Red Cedar building to serve the public.
“Before we take another step to buy another building, I want to know for sure what the cost will be,” Adams said.
Nemeth said people in the community are under the impression that the city is buying the Wintec building and he’s concerned.
“Yesterday I heard from two people about a building that they thought we were going to buy,” he said. “It makes me look foolish that I don’t know what’s going on. The public is saying we’re buying the Wintec building. It’s disappointing for the public to come to us and we don’t know what is going on.”
Nemeth also said he keeps hearing about people chasing grants to help with the Red Cedar building.
“The city swimming pool is on its last leg,” he pointed out. “Where are people running to find grants to fix the pool?”
Roth said the board cannot make a decision about the Red Cedar building until the architectural firm completes its report with a cost estimate.
“We need an overall operational plan of how we will operate it,” he said. “The board will have to make a decision. Can we do it? Where will the money come from? Do we want to?”
Roth said the board may come to the decision that the city cannot redo the building and might decide to sell the Red Cedar building.
Johnson said aldermen should let the process unfold.
“Am I touring the Wintec building?” she asked.
Myers said he would cancel the Wintec building portion of the upcoming tour.