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Gamble on plan to cost $10,000

Andy Ouriel • Jan 28, 2014 at 8:30 PM

Construction company executives overseeing the Keller Building’s demise thwarted a man’s plan to salvage the condemned structure.

Steve Coon, president of an Ohio-based restoration company, lost $10,000 after he tried swaying executives to walk away from demolition prep work.

“The bottom line is that the Keller Building will still come down,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said.

Coon’s ill-timed persistence with his cash played out as such:

A month ago, Coon begged city officials to not tear down the West Shoreline Drive structure as planned.    

Coon guaranteed he could obtain state historic tax credits to transform the blighted building into a 48-unit apartment complex — a project he values at $12 million to $14 million.

But city officials rejected his proposal, citing a $448,500 binding deal with Independence-based construction company Independence Excavating to demolish the monstrosity.

Had officials severed their demolition contract and brokered a side deal with Coon, they’d surely face harsh legal consequences, Sandusky law director Don Icsman said.

So Coon called an audible, directly asking Independence Excavating executives to halt their work.

“I reached out to Independence Excavating to inquire about their willingness to forego demolition of the Keller Building and acceptable terms for eliminating that portion of the contract,” according to a letter Coon addressed to city officials in January

The Register obtained the letter through a public records request. City officials have not discussed the letter in a public meeting.

Contract date

For a few days earlier this month, Independence agreed to temporarily stop demolition work while Coon tried devising a plan to save the Keller Building.

“I have given them a $10,000 check to keep if they must complete the demolition, a risk I was willing to take to provide time to further explore the possibility of an agreement to acquire and rehabilitate the building” Coon wrote.

The $10,000 represented how much Independence stood to receive had work gone uninterrupted.

But the gamble didn’t pay off, as city officials and company executives rejected Coon’s proposal and agreed to plow forward on their deal, signed in October, revolving around razing the Keller Building.

“This is a very fine restoration team, but deadlines and contracts are real” Murray said.

Independence Excavating legal counsel Mary DiGeronimo told the Register her company cashed the check, won’t give Coon a refund and adhere to their demolition contract.

“Excavating honored the request of a private party to temporarily suspend demolition activities so that the private party could explore possibilities to salvage the structure that will be demolished,” DiGeronimo said. “That private party agreed to cover Independence Excavating’s costs to suspend that demolition work for a defined period to prevent increased costs to the city”

A short delay occurred earlier this month.

But construction workers restarted efforts to tear down the Keller Building.

“Independence Excavating intends to timely complete the work and for the competitively bid contract price” DiGeronimo said.

The building will fall sometime this year. Some officials contend it could come down as soon as springtime.

Red flags

In December, when Coon presented a proposal to commissioners, Murray raised several concerns about his plan.

Chief among them: Coon wanted $400,000 in city funds plus ownership of the building. Sandusky owns the Keller Building property.

Murray, a partner in the Sandusky-based Murray & Murray law firm, would only agree to Coon’s arrangement if he agreed to the following clauses:

• Pay for any extra costs Sandusky would incur if it breached the demolition contract.

• Tear down the building at his expense if the revitalization project failed.

• Ensure progress on the Keller Building, be it demolition or revitalization, occurs about one year from now.

Coon couldn’t agree to those stipulations, so Murray didn’t agree to his deal.

“You will not sign the contract that I would require and the terms I would agree to,” Murray said. “It’s just too late at this point”

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