The co-owner of a downtown Neosho landmark says the city's safety concerns about the building are unwarranted.
Larry Neff, the local businessman who co-owns the historic McGinty Building with local banker Rudy Farber, said the city's concerns about falling brick, a partially caved-in roof and other possible safety hazards are not supported by the actual condition of the building.
"The whole structure is actually pretty solid," Neff said.
Concerns about the building were raised Tuesday evening in a Neosho City Council meeting when Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson reported that he had received a complaint about brick falling on the sidewalk near the building on the southwest corner of the Neosho Square.
However, Neff said he is not aware of any falling brick and in a Thursday afternoon walk-through, no fallen brick, or places where brick was missing, were readily apparent.
"No citizen has ever expressed the concern about the danger of the building to Mr. Farber or myself, ever," Neff said. "If bricks were falling from the building, why wasn't something said?"
Neff said he has not been contacted by anyone from the city regarding any safety hazards, though councilmen said Tuesday evening that problems with the building are an ongoing issue.
Falling brick was only one of the potential safety hazards brought up about the old building, though.
The city also expressed concerns stemming from the collapse of a portion of the building's roof.
"In November, we personally contacted the office of the building owner informing them that the hole in the roof needed to be addressed," Neosho's Director of Development Services Dana Daniel said in a prepared statement. "At this time we have not determined if any structural damage has occurred due to this roof issue. We expect the investigation to be completed soon with a determination on the condition of the building."
Council members on Tuesday expressed concerns that the missing roof could jeopardize the integrity of the building's walls, and could also lead to a host of other problems, as rainwater gets into the building.
The portion of the roof missing, which Neff says accounts for roughly four percent of the overall square footage, is located near the back of the building.
The one building is made up of what was three separate buildings, and the roof in that small section sits lower than that on each side of it.
Neff said this caused the lower roof to hold water, to the point that the weight was eventually too much and it gave way.
Crews have since cleaned up the fallen debris.
Neff said replacing the roof isn't in the plans, and that the space that currently has no cover is not posing any danger.
Page 2 of 4 - He said the small area is planned to be converted into a courtyard, which makes the replacement of the roof unnecessary.
"This is a little narrow building that was inside, we're going to come in here and have a courtyard," Neff said.
In addition, Neff said all electrical and water services in the building have been turned off.
The site housed McGinty's Department Store for several years.
The store was established by A.C. McGinty in 1904 and run by the McGinty family for more than eight decades, until they sold the business in 1991. However, the store kept the family name until it officially closed in 2001.
In August 2007, Farber and Neff joined together as McGinty Development, LLC and purchased the vacant structure.
The inside of the former department store has been gutted now, though the business's store hours can still be seen on the doors, and small dressing rooms are still apparent in the front of the store.
Neff said the demolition work was completed approximately one year ago.
"There's a total of about 10,000 square feet in it," Neff said. "The front of it that faces the square, which is approximately 3,000 square feet, we're going to leave open for commercial. I would like to see a deli down there and a small grocery store that the people downtown can walk and get a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread."
He said the rest of the four-story structure would be converted into one and two bedroom apartments, similar to the downtown Sterling Building.
"It will be historically done," Neff said.
However, Neff said any future progress with the building is on hold, at least until the City of Neosho is able to tackle a few downtown projects.
"Mr. Farber and I have every intention of going ahead and remodeling the McGinty Building as soon as the city goes ahead and follows up on the different promised projects for downtown," Neff said.
The projects Neff said he wants to see completed downtown are work on a parking lot across the street from the McGinty Building, as well as work on a few downtown alleys.
Troy Royer, Neosho city manager, said those projects will be completed, once the city is able.
"A lot of these projects have been tabled for a few years because of the financial situation of the city," Royer said.
He said those downtown projects that have been completed, such as the demolition of the First Baptist Church, formerly located just off the square near the Civic, the demolition of the Frye and Gray Building, and the upcoming sidewalk and street improvements on Spring Street, stretching from the square to the Lampo Building, all had previous commitments from the city before Royer or the current council were in office.
Page 3 of 4 - Royer said those projects that the city had received state grants for, and that any money had already been spent on, the city was obligated to continue with, or the city would be required to pay the entirety of the grant back to the awarding institution.
Royer said any projects associated with those grants came first on the city's downtown to-do list.
"We were obligated to finish those projects," Royer said.
Neff noted that the downtown alleyway and parking lot projects are to be funded by the Missouri Development Finance Board, of which he is a member.
The Missouri Development Finance Board assists in funding infrastructure and economic development projects throughout Missouri, with pools of money set aside for specific communities. The board accepts contributions, in exchange for tax credits for those contributors.
Neff said the money is there for the city to complete his desired downtown projects, though the city is instead using the funds to help finance projects such as the downtown demolitions, and the upcoming work on Spring Street.
However, Royer said it isn't that simple, and that the city has to accomplish the projects, that had previous commitments before continuing on to new ones.
While the downtown demolitions and the street and sidewalk improvements are partially being funded by Missouri Development Finance Board funds, that isn't the sole funding source, with grants also involved from organizations such as the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, funding for the downtown alleyway projects comes solely from the Missouri Development Finance Board, Royer said.
"We will finish the projects that we are obligated to start first, that are tied to state funding," Royer said. "Then, whatever money is leftover we'll work on downtown alleyways."
Royer said tackling the alleyways and parking project is next on the list after the East Spring Street improvements.
However, because the Spring Street project was bid out more than two years ago, and grant amounts have stayed the same, while the costs associated with the work, such as concrete and asphalt prices, have been on the rise, Royer said he is not prepared for the city to begin any new projects until they know the total cost of the Spring Street work.
However, Neff labels the concern about the McGinty Building's safety, as well as the lack of progress on the alleyway projects as nothing more than a power struggle between the city and local business leaders, including himself and Farber.
He points to the past court battles between the City of Neosho and the Neosho Transportation Development District as another example of that alleged conflict.
"It's a power struggle, is what it is, to show who's in charge," Neff said.
However, Royer says the hold on the alleyway and parking lot projects is nothing more than the city honoring its commitments and going through the appropriate steps.
Page 4 of 4 - "We have to go through a process as a city to meet statutory requirements before we can do things," Royer said. "Sometimes that's not understood. I will not do a project that is not done the right way."