World class: Battery Park, Surf's Up and City Hall

Matt Westerhold
Jan 20, 2013

 

Today's front-page photo of Sandusky Municipal Court judge Erich O'Brien reminded me when I was a local news editor at The Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria. City Hall operations had moved to a vacated downtown Sears & Roebuck store years before, and stayed there for two decades, suffering its leaking roof and aging wiring system. The city finally built a downtown Elyira CIty Hall, fashioned to include the original City Hall building and a building next to it with new construction. 

I'm not sure which building in downtown Sandusky housed a Sears store, but there are buildings in the district suitable for occupancy. The county building at Columbus and Washington Rowe alone has space suitable for offices, with parking right next door. Sandusky city commissioners have substantially better re-location options than Elyria city officials had when that city re-located its operations. 

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And in Sandusky, there should be no automatic linkage that if the 222 Meigs Street City Hall is closed the property be made available to a developer with the highest bid. City officials have a deeper responsibility — one which many argue is being ignored given the condition at the former Surf's Up waterfront property — to carefully plan and execute preservation and the leveraging of publicly-controlled properties, especially along the waterfront.

The waterfront area that includes the former Surf's Up property, Battery Park and City Hall at 222 Meigs St. should be a top priority for city officials and a topic of public discussion with residents. But months after complaints about the city's stewardship nothing has developed out of city commission for Surf's Up and City Hall is still a secret plan yet to be revealed. Years after the Marina District failed, new ideas from the city are few.

Making the City Hall property available for parkland development along the city's waterfront with its one-of-a-kind, world-class view is not an insurmountable challenge. In fact, it may very well be the best path with least resistance and the wisest development choice city officials and planners could make. There's a whole downtown business district hugging that part of town, ready for development and re-development. Tourists love parks and downtown businesses and property owners love tourists.

What's needed is world-class planning equal to a world-class opportunity.

Comments

Darkhorse

A City Hall move takes a lot of money of which the city does not have. If the judge is in such a hurry to build his court, let him go on without us. He has the money to build. The problem is that he needs to be by the police station and he needs free land to which to build upon. He doesn't have enough money to build and buy land.

DEEPsix's picture
DEEPsix

with more REVENUE, and less boat storage, this area could afford a new City Hall, and better public services.... Get rid of the good old boys and you'll see a world class community... but then, people have been trying for 100 years. SUFFER WHERE YOU MAY, AND SUFFER....

wiredmama222

I agree with most of this....especially the gob stuff. AMEN.

Good 2 B Me

Honestly, we have people shooting and murdering people. It is getting to be more regular. Is this a priority? Not trying to be Debbie Downer, but Sandtown is hurting bad right now. We need to find a way to bring it back. A new City Hall is not the best option. IMHO

wiredmama222

I respectfully disagree with you on this one.

The only way all these murders and shootings are going to stop in this city is when the criminal ELEMENT in this city is slowed or removed.

I think the police and the agencies with which they work are doing the best they can to do.

The moving of or expanding of the city hall isn't going to change that or have any effect on it one way or the other, but it is something IMHO that needs to be done.

Good 2 B Me

Maybe we need a Police force that is staright too. Unfortunately, we see articles about corruption all of the time at SPD. Poor Sandtown has it work cut out for it. Too many people let it go too far and now we are losing it to the wrong people. IMHO

Swamp Fox

Picture of Judge O'Brien in the print edition, very unprofessional on his part.... Part of the problem in Sandusky with crime is O'Brien's lax attitude....

wiredmama222

I loved the entire story with Judge O Brien and got a real kick out of his picture with the umbrella. Judge O Brien has a great sense of humor. It's part of his make up and IMHO, it worked well for him and his story. I particularly liked his point on .."hitting the panic button 11 months ago and was still waiting for a response". ROFLMAO. That's classic Eric O Brien!

Many things outgrow themselves. I completely understand his reasoning. Its a shame. But he is willing to kick in a LOT of money in assistance for a new building and that sure helps.

What about selling municipal bonds to defer costs? That may help as well. Many cities used to do that to raise funds when building something. And then, sell the present land and building to defer some costs. If Polous can make this all happen for a fee not to exceed $6 mill and the judge has 1.5 mill then we have only 4.5 mill to come up with. That isn't TOO bad considering.

OR...What about revamping the old seventh grade school building so we don't have to build a whole new building? That is a HUGE building?

Put the jail in the bottom of it, the courts on the next floor, etc. That shouldn't cost 6 million. Seems to me it would save even more and be close to the court house for other court hearings for criminals.

As far as the rest goes with the BTL's statements and the commissioners: nothing gets done all the time, because not ONE of the commissioners is ASSIGNED to do a particular thing so nothing ever gets done. That is the difficulty with the way the commission is set up. It is every person for themselves. No one is really "assigned" to do something so I guess EVERYONE of them is to blame for ALL of it.....all are included. What a shame that is. They should all be looking into WHY no one is doing something about SURF's UP or Battery Park or any of the things mentioned here?

Perhaps one of the commissions so fond of answering questions for the SR should be answering these questions? Why are they not doing anything about these problems??????

I believe it was Mr. Smith who was conducting a "fact finding mission" on moving the City Hall, so someone may ask HIM how that is going?

Perhaps why the commission isn't doing anything about the Surf's up or Battery Park problems are not being handled should be asked of other commissioners. Perhaps Ms Cole or Mr. Poole would answer since they have been quoted so frequently of late? Maybe they would have answers to those questions? After all these are our public officers.

T. A. Schwanger

Since 1975, there have been at least three attempts at selling City Hall and relocating downtown---not in the name of need but "to promote economic growth" downtown. Now I shop and eat downtown and I do it out of my own free will to promote the downtown.

It is not local government's obligation to promote economic growth in any area of this community by moving government offices.

The Register recently reported 25 new business' have set up shop downtown--that's called capitalism.

Those three attempts of relocating City Hall I spoke of earlier did not stop at 222 Meigs Street--adjacent property, including tennis courts, skatepark, parts of the sailing club and the Federally protected Sandusky Bay Pavilion were also on the auction block.

The Answer Person

This article (not the comments) reminds me of speech class. Our teacher used to call things like this "a pooling of ignorance".

donutshopguy

Wired,

Your guess of 6 million is way, way under funded. Also, are you going to buy bonds from a city that is just keep its financial head above water. If at any time they file bankruptcy you lose your investment. Municipal bonds are probably the worst investment you can make at this time in our county.

Leave the financial discussion to those who have a better grasp of reality.

wiredmama222

Donutshop...my figures are what Polous quoted in the article if you read that. As for the city bonds it is sometimes a very good way to raise funds depending on what you need the funds for.

If the city is going to file for bankruptcy, it is the first time I have heard of it. Do you have real knowledge of that one? If so, from whom did you hear that? A current commissioner? Please tell us who?

As for leaving the "financial discussion to those who have a better grasp on reality" I think it is you who really needs to grasp reality better when you are stating that the city of Sandusky may file bankruptcy. I sincerely doubt that will happen but you said that, not me.

What an unpleasant thing for one to say to another poster....I have a very good grip on reality, sir. At least I am not out there trying to panic the establishment with rumors of emininent ruin for the city. So I think I will stick around a while and offer my suggestions. Whether you agree or not is really not my problem. If they do not coincide with what you like or find to be acceptable, that really is too bad. I find it unfortunate that you cannot accept suggestions for what they are....suggestions, without becoming rude and snide in your comments back. How unfortunate for you. Insulting someone's comments are not what these boards are about. What a shame you find that need to do that to others. Especially going out of your way to do so.

Swamp Fox

wiredmamma222, I usually agree with you and always respect you well thought out views. In this case please sit in on one of O'Brien's court sessions and hear the lack of respect repeat offenders are allowed in his court, lax sentencing and the parallel crime rate by these same folks. As far as revamping an existing building I think any commercial contractor will tell you building new is always less expensive then trying to use a turn of a century building like a school.

wiredmama222

Thanks. I admire your comments as well.

I totally understand that Judge O Brien has a totally tendency to allow repeat offenders to get a second and even third chance to hit the bricks. It is't always right. Perhaps, knowing there are more cells available to place these people in might make a difference.

But his renderings are not what I am concerned about as much as what the US Justice system says he can do. Many of the judical renderings are hands tied now due to overcrowding. Perhaps with more jail space he can sentence to jail locally. That would make more sense, would it not?

A commercial contractor may also tell you that building is also less expensive when trying to add on when you need this much more in a building. I would like to see estimates from both ways. It would be interesting as Polus has already given figures for both and he is an archetect/builder. Lets see what a commercial contractor says. I would consider that fair.

SamAdams

What on earth is wrong with people in Sandusky — including, apparently, our illustrious Register editor? Sandusky doesn't need more park land. We already have beautiful parks that are underutilized and which we're having problems maintaining (largely due to understandable staffing issues). Is there some RATIONAL reason so many seem opposed to making money, securing income (via property and other taxes), and bringing jobs (and places to go) downtown?

Use the money the judge has saved to put together a new site and new(er) building. SELL the waterfront property to somebody with the caveat Battery Park, Sailing Club access, etc. remains available to all. And then enjoy some added income for a change.

Maybe the problem is that the right and RESPONSIBLE thing to do is so obvious. But the surprise here is that government seems to be able to see it, and a small contingent of residents WON'T.

T. A. Schwanger

What defines an underutilized park. Does there have to be 100--200--300 using a park at any given time to consider it utilized? Under this thinking, all city parks are under siege from the "Privatize Public Property Proup".

One does not have to travel far to find communities purchasing waterfront property rather than selling. Several vacant or underutilized private properties or buildings exist along or across the street from the waterfront ripe for reuse or development. Let's focus on those properties while at the same time bring Battery Park, including the tennis courts and skatepark, into the 21st century.

Perhaps a world class skateboard park. No money you say? See how one western community built one of the nations newest innovative skateboard park.

http://www.westyellowstonenews.c...

www.kbzk.com/videos/big-sky-unve...

Earlier this year the Big Sky Community Corporation, the non-profit overseeing the skate park, received the needed funding to get phase one of the project underway. With $150,000 in donations and resort tax funds finally procured, the work began.

wiredmama222

So let me get this straight....you say lets move City hall or perhaps renovate a building for city hall if possible?

Then take the property of city hall and make it into a world class skateboard community for the kids with a fund and foundation contribution like the Western Sky people did? This can be done with a $150,000 donation and this fund? They also use this park in the winter for snowboarding and sleds?

This will keep access to the water and Battery park, eliminate the chance of some developer making condo's at the location and keep the park access to waterfront property?

Do I have this all correct? All the city would be losing is the amount of money the city could get for the property?

The city could maintain the park and perhaps provide water fountains and restrooms for the skaters/sledders from the old building that would be there. We would have the expense of insurance, etc?

Do I have this all correct? Would there be any funds coming in from this venture? If so, how much?

I am all for this if no condo's are being build. Heaven knows we don't need any more of them in the downtown area. There are enough now and many are all vacant.

I am just concerned about liability costs for the city and upkeep, vandalism problems, etc. As long as kids can definitely use these parks and not have signs put up like the parks by Columbus Ave, etc, where they are not permitted to "play", that would be fine.

Otherwise, it is a sound and reasonable idea.

pavedparadise

Wired

Don't think for a moment the only property under consideration for sale and relocation is City Hall..