Offer to save city garage nixed
Man asks to buy soon-to-be razed building
By Scott Bellile
A man’s request to buy the city-owned garage that’s been approved for demolition was given a pass by the New London Board of Public Works.
Jeff Stilen of New London told the board at its October meeting the building remains in good shape, and the city is losing out on tax revenue by not allowing any private owners to take over and start businesses there.
“I’m just trying to get an opportunity to make something out of this building because once it’s down, it’s just green space,” Stilen said Oct. 3. “It’s going to cost you more to take it down, and why not give somebody a chance to make something out of it? What do you got to lose? Work with me. You might want to rent it back.”
Fourth District Alderman Ron Steinhorst told Stilen the city council acted in the public interest in voting to raze the worn down garage in July.
“I’ve had numerous calls from people: ‘Make sure that you get rid of it. It’s an eyesore to the community,’” Steinhorst said.
Stilen then asked, “Who proposed this to begin with? I’ve heard rumors. Is it someone who’s a self-interest group that owns a restaurant right next to it that would benefit from the parking?”
“No,” New London Mayor Gary Henke replied. “No. Not at all.”
“I don’t know, how did it get brought up to take it down?” Stilen asked. “I heard from somebody how it did.”
“But you can’t believe rumors,” Steinhorst said.
Stilen didn’t say what those rumors were, and board members didn’t explain how the discussions to raze it started.
Steinhorst said the current garage isn’t meeting the city’s space needs, and equipment sits outside and rusts as a result.
Stilen said garage workers say they don’t want to move into the new facility that was built over the summer west of the wastewater treatment plant. Board members told him they’re hearing the opposite.
After more back and forth, Henke said, “We’ve heard Mr. Stilen’s proposal. I would suggest we move on.”
“Give me a chance. What do you got to lose?” Stilen replied. “Taxpayers will add to the tax base, maybe it’ll succeed and we’ll all smile. What is telling you you can’t? Work with me. The city could work with it. I’ll work together. You’ve got Hillary and what’s her face, his face there, Trump, arguing. Boy, we’re in for a mess come November.”
“This has nothing to do with the building,” Barrington said.
“Well I don’t know, it’s all the same thing as far as I’m concerned,” Stilen said. “It worked all these years. I don’t know a better way of doing this. But all I know is it worked all these years, all of a sudden it ain’t [to you].”
“I think we’ll move on,” Barrington said.
As the board began discussing its next topic, Stilen accused the board of cutting him off and not admitting they’re wrong.
Stilen’s offer to buy the building was the second request made in a public forum this year. In June, King Storage offered to buy it and convert it into storage space. Board members said no, deciding it would be a waste of riverside real estate to keep the deteriorating structure up.
After much debate, the New London City Council voted back in July to raze the building and determine a use for it later. Options discussed thus far include park space and duplexes.
City workers are expected to be all moved in to the new city garage by spring 2017.