Janesville41.3°

Tearman plans to move ahead with reopening overnight shelter

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
June 18, 2010
— Mike Tearman plans to reopen the Christian Fellowship and Outreach Center’s overnight shelter that the city ordered shut down June 8 because of building and zoning code issues.

When Tearman will reopen the shelter is unknown.


“There are people who need the services, and I don’t see that it’s being provided for them,” Tearman said. “So I’m going to do everything I can to provide that service for these men. We’re not going away. I got a year lease on that building. I might even buy it when I can get some money.”


Tearman on Wednesday was waiting for blueprints so he could create a floor plan for the conditional-use permit he needs to change his drop-in center back into an overnight shelter.


He said he didn’t have the $500 required to apply for the permit.


“I work 40-plus hours a week and have six children. I don’t get paid for this. I volunteer,” Tearman said.


Another issue that must be resolved before the shelter can reopen for overnight stays is installation of a fire sprinkler system.


“I have verbally told him that overnight use would require sprinklers and did not put it in a letter,” said Gale Price, manager of building and development services for the city. “There’s a variance process with the state he can pursue if he’d like.”


Tearman, however, said Price didn’t say the need for the fire sprinkler system was absolute.


“He (Price) was talking to a fire department guy, and that was something he was looking into. I think he’s still researching the option,” Tearman said.


Regardless, Tearman has been pursuing a sprinkler system.


“We had some people look, and they don’t think the water supply from the city lines are able to support a sprinkler system,” he said.


Tearman said he received a call from a Madison sprinkler contractor who offered to provide a system and install it. Plus, he said a local security company offered a monitoring system with strobe lights, free for a year, as an alternate solution.


“The support has been overwhelming from architects, plumbers, electricians and construction contractors who have called me, and most of them have offered their services to low or no cost,” Tearman said.


Tearman had no idea what a sprinkler system might cost, but Price said industrial sprinkler contractors typically charge $3 a square foot.


“But this is more complicated because of the two floors, lower ceilings and so forth,” he said of the building, which has 2,000 square feet on each of two floors. That could presumably push costs higher.


In addition to providing the floor plan along with the $500 application for the conditional-use permit, Price said, Tearman must provide a shelter site plan that shows the layout of the property and whether he’s going to do anything to the exterior. Then he’ll have to appear before the plan commission, which could take up to eight weeks.


If and when the permit gets approved, Price said he would do a detailed building plan with Tearman “to give him a complete understanding with the code issues involved with the change in use. It’s a complicated project, to some degree.”


Tearman said he’s not so sure he wants to change the building’s zoning.


“Maybe we want to keep it commercially zoned,” he said.


Meanwhile, he continues to operate a drop-in center for homeless men out of the building, 407 W. Van Buren St.


“We feed them. People are still bringing food—breakfast and dinner—in to us. They can go to the Salvation Army for lunch,” Tearman said. “There's always water, fellowship, camaraderie, and we have a great 12-step program.”


Tearman also said he’s open to meeting with neighbors of the Old Fourth Ward Committee, some of whom complained about the overnight shelter.


“It would please me if they would extend an invitation,” he said. “I’d surely make it and answer their questions.”



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