Belleville accepting bids for Meredith Home asbestos removal and demolition

News-DemocratAugust 7, 2013 

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— The city is accepting bids to demolish and remove asbestos from the Meredith Memorial Home this month, hoping to do the work by November, as some city leaders make a last-minute plea to save the building.

The city will accept separate bids for demolition and asbestos removal of the former senior citizens home until Aug. 30.

Interested bidders must attend a pre-bid meeting at 9 a.m. Monday to walk through the site at 16 S. Illinois St. or else they won't be eligible to bid on the project.

Director of Health, Housing, Building & Zoning Bob Sabo said the city hopes to have the asbestos removed in October and the demolition done after that.

The bids will have to go through the city's Public Health and Housing Committee and Finance Committee before going to the full City Council in September for approval, Sabo said.

At a Health and Housing meeting on Wednesday, aldermen asked if anyone has expressed interest in the building recently. Sabo said no.

"I would hate to see the building come down if we could do anything else with it," Ward 2 Alderwoman Janet Schmidt said.

Ward 1 Alderman Ken Kinsella said at some point developers were interested in using the building for a hotel, but there is not enough parking at the Public Square property for such use.

The city purchased the Meredith Home in 2010 from the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, which sold the property that housed senior citizens because it was losing money in operations.

The city then used a private donation from Bruce and Sandra Cook to pay off a $492,101 loan for the property.

In turn, the city will build a park in honor of the donors' late daughter, Susannah Marison, who died at age 36 in 2010 from a brain tumor.

Bruce Cook said in March 2012 that he envisioned the space being more of an outdoor venue, with space the city could use for events.

Bruce Cook said Wedneday afternoon that he turned over preliminary design ideas for the space to the city last year, but action can't be taken until after demolition.

Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden said it would be a drastic mistake to turn the prime real estate into a park.

"It's never too late to offer something more constructive," Hayden said.

Mayor Mark Eckert said the city will meet again with Cook after the building is removed to agree on a design.

Eckert said the city has delayed action on the building because funding had not been available until this fiscal year. In recent weeks, the mayor ordered an asbestos report and to start the bidding process.

The city's 2013-14 budget includes $400,000 to pay for demolition from tax increment financing funds.

At the committee meeting Wednesday, resident Michael Hagberg brought a copy of September 2010 committee minutes that stated that the Cooks would help pay for demolition costs as well as fundraising and design work.

Eckert, who was not at that meeting, said it was always the city and the Cooks' understanding that the city would take care of demolition costs and the Cooks would fundraise for the park.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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