Monday, October 21, 2013
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Oasis purchases Rusty's Clubhouse, sells downtown building to MMIL

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[October 21, 2013]  When the Oasis was struck by fire in June, immediately there was a knee-jerk reaction that the building had to be saved, the senior center had to remain in the downtown area, and the community would stand behind the Oasis in helping the organization accomplish this.

However, late last week the board of directors of the Oasis Senior Center concluded that for them to do this would be impractical and financially irresponsible.

It was not a decision that came easily, but it was the decision the board felt they had to make.

Soon after the fire, the building at the corner of Pulaski and Kickapoo streets on the south side of the downtown square was inspected by engineers and architects to determine the extent of the damage and the likelihood that the building could be restored.

One dilemma they faced was a leaning wall on the building's west side. The wall was leaning out approximately 4 inches. But the problem was not a result of the fire, it was the result of the age of the building. The wall could be brought back in line with the construction of the new roof, but it was going to add to the cost of the restoration.

Another problem, the age of the building, meant there was lead paint and asbestos present. Up until this point it had not been an issue for the Oasis, but now that restoration was at hand, those problems would have to be addressed in the remodeling, meaning additional de-construction of the building before it could be put back together.

Inspections by the city zoning officer, John Lebegue, revealed yet a few more problems. The building as it stood before the fire was not in compliance with current city code on many issues. Because the building existed before the codes were written, those issues had not been a problem, but Lebegue said that with the reconstruction of the site, it would have to be brought up to code. This would mean more dollars invested that really were not related to recovery from the fire.

By mid-July, the aftereffects of the fire were starting to cause problems as well.

The Lincoln Fire Department, with the assistance of every fire department within driving distance of Lincoln, had fought the blaze with literally thousands of gallons of water. The water, the warm temperatures and other factors caused the immediate growth of mold inside the building.

Soon after the fire, a committee consisting of select members of the Oasis board started looking at what to do about providing a home for the senior center. As the problems mounted, they came to realize that trying to restore the building would not be a wise decision.

The committee then began looking at alternatives. The Oasis had access to two lots where they could build a new facility. They researched building a new facility that would meet the needs of Logan County's seniors both now and in the future. It was discovered that this option was going to come with an astronomical price tag of $1 million or more.

A third option was to buy an existing building. The middle of September, the committee told the full board that was the direction they wanted to go, and the board supported the decision.

The committee then set about looking at what was available. In all they considered 14 different locations in Lincoln, including sites in the downtown area. Buildings included in their search were the Bartelmay building downtown, Chad's Blind on Fifth Street, the abandoned J&S automotive building on Woodlawn and several others, including Rusty's Clubhouse.

They weighed the pros and cons of each site, and in the end it was the former Rusty's on the city's far west side with the most to offer and the most attractive price tag.

Oasis board president Wallace Reifsteck said on Saturday that the decisions the committee and the board made about abandoning the downtown site were indeed emotional, but it was the right decision.

"We had two lots available to us where we could have built a new building, but the cost was going to be over $1 million. There were also other buildings available that the committee looked at, but Rusty's had a lot to offer and will give us the space we need to grow. We have to look not only at what is needed now, but what will be needed in the future, 50 years from now," he said.

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Reifsteck said the "fire committee" did a lot of hard work, spent a lot of time looking at all the options for the Oasis after finishing up their own workdays, and it is all greatly appreciated.

The Rusty's building will be purchased for $385,000. There is a laundry list of repairs that will need to be made to the building, including a new roof. The Oasis will also have to remodel the interior to suit the needs of the organization more completely.

The insurance payment to the Oasis after the fire came to $750,000. Reifsteck said the reasonable price of the former Rusty's will make it possible for the Oasis to purchase the building and do a lot of the repair and remodeling with the insurance money.

Immediately after the fire, different organizations in the community started raising funds for the Oasis, and Reifsteck said those funds are appreciated and will definitely be needed as the Oasis moves forward with this plan.

He explained that while the insurance payout from the fire is going to cover the purchase price of the building and most, if not all, of the remodeling costs, there will still be needs that currently haven't been thought of.

"We really don't know what the cost of the remodel will be yet," he said. "And, we are still going to have fundraisers in the future for the building fund."

Reifsteck said that with the larger area, the big parking lot, there are also going to be higher maintenance costs, and the Oasis is always going to need the support of the community to help keep the building in good shape once it is occupied.

He said the new location is going to be great for the senior population. He noted that everything will be on one floor and handicapped-accessible. In addition, the amenities inside the building, such as the bathrooms, are going to be a great improvement over what was in the old building.

Marcia Cook has been on the Oasis board for the last three years. On Saturday, she spoke about the decision to purchase the former restaurant building.

"I had no idea it would cost so much to build a new building," she said. "We have to be good stewards of the money we have, and we have to look out for the future of our senior citizens. Buying the Clubhouse is the right decision for the future of the Oasis," she said.

Marilyn Armbrust is also on the Oasis board and is really excited about the decisions that have been made. She admitted that it would be tough to leave the downtown area, but she is ecstatic over the parking that will be available for the members at the new location.

As for the gutted downtown burn site, the old building still has a future. The building has been purchased by MMIL Holdings. Local businessman David Lanterman is a principal in that holding group.

On Saturday evening he responded to an email about the future of the building, saying that the building will be restored by his group.

He told LDN that at this point there isn't a specific plan for the building, except that it will be restored and eventually offered as additional retail space in the downtown area.

He knows that the 4-inch lean in the west wall will be fixed when the new roof goes on. In addition the purchase agreement between MMIL and the Oasis stipulates that the asbestos, lead paint and mold issues will all be addressed at the expense of MMIL, and that is already underway.


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