Photo courtesy of Manhattan/Riley County Preservation Alliance

Riley County commissioners voted 2-1 to demolish the former First Christian Church Property on Monday.

The property was first bought last year, when former commissioners Ron Wells and Marvin Rodriguez were joined by current Commission Chair John Ford.   The property was purchased for around $852,000.  Wells and Rodriguez voted in favor of the purchase, with Ford being the lone vote against.

Before making the final decision, Brent Bowman with BBN Architects presented a space study to the commission. He suggested the county conduct a new study on the church.  This is due to several changes that have occurred since the previous study, including the pandemic.  Bowman says the county may have more people working from home in the future, decreasing the amount of space needed.

“I think you should revisit it with a more holistic look at the renovations of that building.  I don’t think there is a big burden of cost to update the study or to take a more complete look at the church,” says Bowman.

Bowman also brought up the needs for the county that extend beyond office space.  He says the county also needs storage space and more security for their buildings not attached to the main office building.

After the presentation, the commission discussed what to do next with the building.  Ford says the biggest reasoning for the demolition to him was the space vs. economics.  He feels they will be “nickel and diming” through the majority of the process.  Ford also says he doesn’t think the costs of renovation will not be offset by potential historic tax credits.  The property is currently not listed as a historic site.

After viewing the interior of the property several times, Ford says he thinks the building has outlived its usefulness. Commissioner Kathryn Focke, who voted against demolition, wants more studies done for the building.  She says she wants to hear more from the public, but Ford says they have heard quite a bit from emails and phone calls.

Ford added that if they wait for another study, then they will need to use CIP funds to upkeep the building in the meantime.  Even if a new study said the property could be renovated and serve their needs, Ford asked how long would a proposal take to be drafted?

“We don’t enough money in CIP or other means to do that so it would have to be a bond issue.  And does that pass? I don’t think the plans in here are gonna pass to start with to be honest,” says Ford.

County Clerk Rich Vargo brought up that the courthouse and current offices need renovations before they start renovating an entire different building.

After the vote was complete, Focke suggested preserving the limestone from the building as it is valuable. Vargo says the demolition would be more expensive if they preserve the limestone. Early estimates had the complete demolition at $150,000.  However, Ford was not opposed to looking into those costs.

Ford also suggested taking photos and videos of the interior of the building before demolition for archiving purposes.

The post Riley County commission approves demolition of former First Christian Church appeared first on News Radio KMAN.