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Home News-Telegram News Downtown property owners seek help with restrooms, asbestos

Downtown property owners seek help with restrooms, asbestos

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Members of the Downtown Revitalization Board were asked Tuesday night to find a way to help business owners with restroom requirements and asbestos removal.

The board, meeting in regular session, heard from people who have in recent months purchased properties on downtown that they plan to renovate and open for business.

But Billie Ruth Standbridge, who is planning to open a dress shop, ran into unexpected problems.

"If I understand correctly, anytime your business is open to the public, your restrooms are open to the public — it seems to me all of us as merchants will be operating as public restrooms," said Standbridge. "For my own building, I couldn't do anything about the restrooms until I have an asbestos inspection, which I think is a fairly unjust thing, especially considering the cost."

She said the inspection costs hundreds of dollars to tell her that tiles in a 5-foot by 5-foot area were asbestos-based.

"I find out for hundreds of dollars that if I don't disturb that, I can go ahead and put down another floor," she said.

But even with the inspection, she has another problem — the city building inspector has told her she must install two bathrooms due to the square footage of her property.

"Now, Sulphur Springs Hardware, which has a lot more square footage than my building, has one restroom that services both men and women," she said. "The Chamber of Commerce is new, and it has only one restroom."

The city has a grant program to help downtown property owners with their building facades, but Standbridge said more may need to be done to help.

"I have a real concern. Before I can take advantage of any kind of facade renovation, I really have to resolve my restroom situation," she said. "Since this is coming down as an imposed expense, I would like to see some consideration regarding a grant that would go toward assisting with the restrooms — and also the consistency of what would be required of us. Why would I be asked, based on square footage, to have two restrooms, when Sulphur Springs Hardware has one, and the Chamber of Commerce is brand new, and it has one"

Claude Walter, who has purchased property at 217 Main St., echoed Standbridge's comments.

"I can put in one restroom or two. The real thing I have a problem with is asbestos removal," he said. "I had absolutely no idea what that was going to cost when I bought the buildings downtown, and it hit — that removal is  $6,000, and you can't even see it."

An entire floor has to be removed because asbestos is showing, he said.

“That's a lot of money that I could have put on restrooms," Walter said with a grin and a slight chuckle.

"If we're going to be required to do these things, there ought to be some help somewhere," he continued. "I appreciate the city wants to have nice facades and nice-looking buildings on the outside, but us poor suckers that have bought the buildings, we've got to pay for clean-up.

"If any help could be garnered from that, we sure would be appreciative.

Johnny Vance, director of community development, said asbestos was an unavoidable problem.

"As far as asbestos, that's out of our hands. That's federal and state law ... we can't just wish it away," Vance said.

"I understand that," Walter responded. "All I'm asking for is help."

Any grant programs to help with such costs could be recommended by the downtown board, Vance added, but would ultimately have to be approved by the City Council.

"As far as when one or two (restrooms) is required, if you want to challenge those issues, it goes before the Board of Appeals, which is better schooled and educated on when one is required and two is required," Vance said.




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