The Kenai Peninsula Borough administration is re-evaluating a plan to demolish the vacant, northern most portion of the Nikiski Community Recreation Center building.
Prior to the July 1 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, Mayor Mike Navarre said the administration hadn’t heard comments against the proposed teardown.
While the assembly did accept and appropriate a $500,000 grant from the state for demolition and maintenance of the building, it will consider options put together by the administration with updated figures, delay expenses and winter construction costs based on the re-evaluation of the plan on July 22.
Initially the administration proposed to demolish a portion of the building due for roof and exterior replacements that has been mostly unoccupied since the Nikiski Elementary School closed in 2004. The demolition is estimated to cost $500,600 and will be incorporated in the “North Peninsula Recreation Center Building Repairs Project.” By combining the demolition with previously funded projects, which total $850,000, the borough expects to save $30,000, according to the ordinance.
A portion of money in the repairs project fund is scheduled for re-roofing and re-siding the section of the building that houses the recreation center.
North Peninsula Recreation Service Area Board Chair Patti Floyd said the board, in considering its options with the unused portion of the building, thought the demolition was the best solution.
“The most cost effective for the community was to go ahead with the demolition,” Floyd said. “And (it was) the most appropriate for the use of the building, so that is was conducive to recreation.”
With its newly developed playground and disc golf course, the demolition will allow for expansion of recreational offerings, Floyd said.
Tim Colbath, who runs Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski, spoke to the assembly at the July 1 meeting against the demolition.
Colbath said he thinks there are multiple uses for the vacant portion of the building such as offices for oil and gas industry businesses or for an animal rescue facility, if the borough decides exercise animal control practices.
“The building still has good life and use left,” he said.
Officials with the borough and the borough school district visited the building after the July 1 meeting as a part of the re-evaluation of the demolition plan.
“If we have a need because of growth in the community, we may need it again as an elementary school,” Navarre said. … “That is probably something that would be very expensive to do, but that is something that we’re in the process of evaluating, whether or not it would ever be used again as a school.”
But he said if the borough did convert the building back to a school, multiple issues would need to be worked out.
With North Peninsula Recreation currently using the building for community purposes, if the group is displaced, a facility would need to be found or built for it, Navarre said.
He said because the grant was awarded to the North Peninsula Service Area, if the borough uses the money to upgrade the building, compensation for the service area would need to be figured.
“That building is 50 years old or more … sometimes it’s more expensive to convert an older structure like that than it is to build new,” he said.
To abide by fire codes, upgrades to the sprinkler system are one of the more expensive costs associated with utilizing the empty space. Since the recreation center only uses a percentage of the building, it doesn’t need to upgrade its sprinkler system, Navarre said.
He said the administration is considering whether the borough could go forward with marketing the unused portion of the building with the idea that the buyer would do the upgrades.
“It wouldn’t make sense that the borough would do the upgrades hoping that somebody would take it,” he said.
Navarre said the borough spends about $50,000 annually to maintain the unoccupied portion of the building.
The borough has a request for a proposal out for the demolition, re-roofing and re-siding, due back on July 23. If the project is postponed, work would likely be pushed back to next year, he said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.