Council acts to secure Masonic Lodge building

The NYA City Council has ordered that the privately owned Masonic Lodge building be boarded up for safety. Photo by Paul Downer

The question of what to do with the historic but deteriorating Masonic Lodge building at 10 3rd Avenue SE has been a regular discussion item for the NYA City Council for the past 14 months, and council members took further action on the matter during their meeting on Monday, Nov. 12.

Since the building is privately owned and there has been no communication from the owner to the city regarding the city’s order to either repair or tear down the building to mitigate safety concerns, the council has been taking gradual steps toward the eventual accomplishment of one of those two objectives since September of 2011.

Last week, the council ordered the building to be secured by removing propane tanks discovered during the execution of a search warrant this past July and by boarding up all windows on the property with plywood after ensuring that the building is not occupied. Additional efforts will be made to cover holes in the roof and to trim vegetation around the structure.

The owner, who has been unresponsive to the city’s numerous communication attempts, was given six days to carry out those measures before the city’s public works staff moves ahead with the work. City workers will not attempt temporary repairs to the roof due to safety concerns, however, and a licensed contractor would likely be used for that work.

In addition to securing the building, the council also ordered that the city’s existing search warrant be expanded to include an asbestos survey and a structural and architectural survey.

The asbestos survey is necessary to give the city council an accurate idea of what it might cost to demolish the building, or to possibly repair it if practical. Two quotes have been received for razing the building, the lower of which was $13,500, but the level of asbestos found could significantly alter that number.

To move ahead with the asbestos survey, the council agreed to a contract with Braun Intertec at a cost of $1,593.

City staff will seek quotes and funding options for the structural and architectural survey so that the council can make a fully informed final decision when the time comes on whether to tear down the building or attempt to preserve it. Due to private ownership the city cannot take any steps to preserve the historic building at present, but city staff anticipate that the building will go into tax forfeiture in January of 2014.

Prior to the most recent council action the city had spent just over $1,200 in abatement costs associated with the building, and was keeping track in order to recoup those funds through assessment. If the property goes into forfeiture, however, it is unlikely those funds will be recovered.

The building was constructed in 1904 by local Masons, but has been privately owned in recent years. When city officials entered the building through an unlocked window to execute the search warrant in July they confirmed that it posed both a safety risk and a fire hazard after discovering and photographing piles of rubbish, extensive water damage and mold, standing water, holes in the roof and other signs of disrepair.