WATERLOO --- Plans to raze the former Lafayette Elementary School this year could put the demolition of other neighborhood eyesores on hold.
Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark said tearing down the dilapidated building at 2265 Lafayette St. could consume all of the $550,000 in general obligation bond funds earmarked for citywide demolition projects in the coming fiscal year.
"We're hoping the bids come in low for that because that takes the majority of our demolition money," Clark told council members this week. "But our demolition bids have been coming in very good. If we get good bids we can tear some houses down too."
Councilman Quentin Hart favored tearing down the school, noting "the neighborhood has been calling me to task on that."
But he was worried about not having cash this year to tear down blighted homes the city has acquired through court orders. Council members faced considerable pressure from neighborhood groups in the past when the city ran short of funds to demolish abandoned houses.
"Is there any wiggle room on that amount?" Hart asked.
The city is planning to sell $8.4 million in general obligation bonds in June --- repaid with interest over 15 years --- and another $4 million in sewer bonds to pay for a long list of capital projects and equipment needs in the city.
Chief Financial Officer Michelle Weidner said the amount was capped to ensure the city wasn't adding more to its $92 million debt than it was paying off in the current fiscal year.
Lafayette Elementary opened in 1912 and was closed by the Waterloo Community School District in 1973. It was sold by the school district to a private buyer for $500 in 1994. Another developer gave the building back to the city in December 2008 when his plan to renovate the structure as apartments was deemed infeasible.
The extremely deteriorated condition of the school is driving up the price of demolition.
"The building is too unsafe to do an asbestos survey or abatement," said Chris Western, a city planner II. "It's all wood floors, and you could fall through."
Since the asbestos can't be removed first, the demolition contractor must handle the material as if it all contained the cancer-causing material. The structure most be hosed down throughout the process, while trucks hauling debris to the landfill must be wrapped up tight.
Western noted the city attempted unsuccessfully to secure federal grant funds to help cover the costs.
When the school is torn down, the Lafayette site is one of several former school properties City Council members agreed to donate to developers John Rooff and Jim Ellis for development. While most of the sites are intended for new affordable homes, at least one City Council member hopes the Lafayette area can be turned into a supermarket, hardware store and restaurant.
"We've been talking about tearing down Lafayette school for how many years?" said Councilman Ron Welper. "I always saw it as commercial property."
Other major items in the proposed list of general obligation bonds include: $960,000 for parks, golf courses, sports facilities and other Leisure Services improvements; $950,000 for ongoing downtown property acquisition; $870,000 for Virden Creek tributary improvements; $750,000 for continued development of the new public works building on Glenwood Street; and $400,000 for flood control improvements.
The bond list also includes $540,000 for assorted vehicles and equipment; $330,000 for a new city phone system; $200,000 to clear trees along flood levees; and $75,000 to get started on a parking lot for the Cedar Valley SportsPlex.