Speaking Personally

No clear expectations for Main Street building
Representatives from the nonprofit that owns the dangerous building on Main Street failed to show up at the last city council meeting. The city council did nothing about it. 
The board members of Main Street Willow Springs, LLC and the Willow Springs city government will ultimately determine the fate of the building at Main and Center. For months, both boards have failed to communicate constructively while a dangerous eyesore has loomed over downtown without any solution in sight.
Since July, the nonprofit board members have been summoned to all but one of the city council meetings.  They have appeared at all but two. 
Despite their repeated appearances, nothing has been done to save the building. Precious little has been done to protect the public from the danger it poses. The nonprofit has owned the building since October 2020.
Current and former members of Main Street Willow Springs, LLC are community and faith leaders. They are business owners. They are people known to get things done. The city and the people of Willow Springs have been deferential, extending every courtesy, while years have passed and nothing has changed to fix the problem.
Seemingly, the city has determined that the nonprofit’s period of good faith has ended. By calling the members to each meeting, I think the expectation is that there will be progress now.
I use “think” here intentionally because I am forced to assume.
And this is the crux of the problem. 
I must assume because at every opportunity to provide clear guidance, strict timelines, or even clear expectations to the nonprofit board members who appear, the aldermen have failed to do so. 
In fact, astute readers will have noticed that in all the months Main Street Willow Springs has appeared before the city council, no one in the government has made a motion regarding the building. No votes or no official actions have been taken.
The most egregious example of inaction took place in the October 27 meeting. In this meeting, the city heard a presentation from a structural engineer who was optimistic about the building’s future. The engineer explicitly said that although the building meets the city ordinance’s definition of a dangerous building in its current state, with enough money, it can be saved. He promised to help the building owners. He assured the aldermen that it would be safe to allow a work crew inside.
And then, the engineer left the room. The members of the board of Main Street Willow Springs also left. The aldermen didn’t ask them to stay. 
Later in that open session, I asked what is expected of the nonprofit based on the report. The aldermen told me Main Street Willow Springs was expected within 30 days to:
1. Meet with the engineer,
2. Agree on a proposal and scope of work, and 
3. Schedule the repair of at least the north façade.
I repeated the three points back to them in open session in my own words for verification. Of course, by this time Main Street Willow Springs was not there to hear it. I’m not sure they ever heard this list.
In follow-up questions to the nonprofit, they have refused to confirm any expectations. 
In follow-up questions to the city, officials seem unsure. The minutes of the November meeting contradict my understanding of the city’s expectations. As recently as Monday morning, the city administrator could not tell me what, specifically, the aldermen expect from the nonprofit.
In the November 17 meeting, board members from Main Street Willow Springs did not appear as scheduled. They did not provide an update. Twenty-one days had passed.
The aldermen moved on in their agenda and took no action. 
At the end of the meeting, I asked what the nonprofit’s absence signified.
No clear answer, so I rephrased, “Are they meeting your expectations? Yes or no?”
A heavy and awkward silence fell. No one answered me. Alderman Phil Knott noted that it had not been 30 days since the last meeting. No further comment.
I learned Monday that the nonprofit reached out to the city administrator via text message on Nov. 22 to communicate they have signed a contract with the engineer and have a contractor “prepared to work with them.”
Though we should all be glad to see this step forward, this update should have taken place in public. Repeated invitations to city council meetings should have made at least one thing clear to the nonprofit: the status of this building is a public concern. When I call it a dangerous building, that is not my opinion. It is the legal definition under the city laws.
That said, no one wants to lose this building.
No one wants another big hole downtown. 
No one wants anybody to get hurt.
No one wants to be the bad guy. 
And yet, someone must be in charge.
The aldermen must hold the nonprofit accountable with clear expectations and deadlines. We, the public, must hold the aldermen accountable to resolve this problem.
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Howell County News

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