Janesville55.8°

City in no rush to tear down historic gas station

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 28, 2008
— A historic gas station running on empty got a full tank Monday night when the Janesville City Council decided not to demolish it.

City staff had recommended the building at 101 N. Franklin St. be torn down. The building sits next to the new police station in a block otherwise cleared for city facility expansion.


But demolition would cost $30,000 with another $200 a year to mow the green space. Keeping the building would cost $300 a year.


After Brad Cantrell, community development director, said the police station likely won't expand for at least 16 years, Council member Yuri Rashkin said:


"Am I missing something? Are we talking about tearing down a building so in 20 years we can build something?"


Said council member Tom McDonald: "Since we don't have plans right now for that area other than green space, I see no reason to knock it down for $30,000 and pay $200 a year to maintain that area."


Council member Russ Steeber said it would be best if someone bought the building for $1 and moved it. But moving the building would cost it a chance of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for which it is eligible. The building also is featured in a book on historic state gas stations.


Council members didn't think selling the building was a good idea.


But, "I'd be in support of trying to find someone who could lease the place rather than spending more city money to tear it down," Rashkin said.


"I'm in no hurry to demolish the building," council member George Brunner said. "I guess I'd at least hold open our options for awhile."


Council member Bill Truman said he would have allowed someone else to buy the building when it came up for sale.


Now that the city owns it, it should keep it. But the city should try to find someone to use it, Truman said.


Council members asked staff to come up with alternatives, such as leasing or possibly some city use.


The historic commission had recommended that the council delay demolition.


Five speakers spoke in favor of saving the building.


Karl Dommershausen urged the council to put the property out for bids and back on the tax rolls.


He said the council should protect the city's heritage and said members need only look at gaps downtown that are the result of aggressive removal policies of the past.


"I feel this is the time to draw a line in the sand," Dommershausen said. "Enough is enough. Let's save one historic thing in our downtown."


Harry O'Leary was the only person to advocate demolition. He was on the council when the police station was designed, and he said keeping the gas station would be penny wise and pound foolish. The day will come when the city needs the land to expand, he said.


He said the city should be more aggressive in tearing down old, blighted buildings.


If the council wants to maintain historic buildings, members should look to the downtown where many are decaying, O'Leary said.


Citizen Advisory Committee approved

JANESVILLE—Six city residents were selected by the Janesville City Council on Monday to help fill the ranks of city committees.


The Citizen Advisory Committee on Appointments is new. In the past, the city manager recommended the names of residents to serve on committees, boards and commissions.


Now, the committee will pick applicants to recommend to the manager and council president. Fourteen residents applied to serve on the advisory committee.


President Amy Loasching recommended the following residents, who were then approved by the council:


-- Judith Detert-Moriarty, 23 S. Atwood Ave., artist.


-- Shena Kohler, 1522 King St., student.


-- David Riemer, 1208 Glen St., owner of Harris Ace Hardware.


-- Mary Willmer-Sheedy, 3919 Parkview Drive, M&I Bank market president.


-- Larry Squire, 4245 Wilshire Lane, Johnson Bank president.


-- Ron Combs, 106 Glenview Court, president of Combs & Associates surveyors (alternate).


OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the Janesville City Council on Monday:


-- Directed staff to study the feasibility of a multi-use facility downtown. However, the study would be a low priority if other leads to bring jobs to the city come to the forefront.


Council members Yuri Rashkin and Kathy Voskuil advocated the facility.


The study would identify if there is a need for such a facility. The city would not spend money but would rather be the "broker" that brings the different entities to the table, Rashkin said.


-- Directed Jack Messer, director of public works, to study a proposal to change Milwaukee and Court streets from one-way to two-way traffic. The study will cost $20,000, of which $4,000 is local money.


The proposal would reroute traffic so motorists use Milwaukee Street to get to the downtown rather than through it. Councilman Tom McDonald said the council must hear from business people about losing much of the exposure they have now from the through traffic.



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