WORTHINGTON - A plan to sell the Thompson Hotel building at auction had Worthington City Council members debating the merits of its continued repair at their meeting Monday night.
The city had previously agreed to pay for re-roofing the Thompson and hired contractor Gag Sheet Metal to do the labor. The contractor had already ordered materials and was ready to begin work.
On March 7, the city received word from receiver Lighthouse Management Group - which was given receivership of the building last September - that it had hired Grafe Auction of Spring Valley to help sell the property at auction. The city halted repairs, and City Administrator Steve Robinson met with Lighthouse on March 14 to discuss plans moving forward.
Monday’s discussion centered on whether or not to resume repairing the roof of the building before the auction.
Robinson said that including the materials purchased by the contractor, the city has already spent $179,480.70 on repairs.
“Our initial goal (in paying for re-reroofing) was to keep a roof over tenants…(and) to make sure people had a place to live,” noted council member Amy Ernst.
Former city attorney Mark Shepherd advised the council to sell the Thompson as is, saying that strategy is likely to recover the most money. Although fixing the roof would increase the value of the property, Shepherd thought it unlikely that the building would sell at that price.
Shepherd explained that after the sale, the city would get paid back first, then Wells Fargo. Robinson added that the city can contest a low offer, rather than accepting an absolute bid. The problem with that strategy, he said, is that the city would be at the mercy of a court, and there’s a chance the appeal would not be granted.
“So what we really need to do is come up with a figure that we’re satisfied with,” said council member Alan Oberloh.
“We need to figure out what our goal is,” Ernst argued.
Mayor Mike Kuhle expressed concern about the Thompson selling at auction at all.
“I’m afraid of the low bidder getting this property and the low bidder not having the resources and the management to take care of it,” he said.
Council member Chad Cummings reminded council members that each of their concerns was largely hypothetical at this point, and to focus on the decision at hand.
Ultimately, the council wanted more time to think before moving forward. Members took no action Monday.