ELLINWOOD – After 10 months of drama, Mark and Cassie Batchman, owners of The Cutting Edge Salon in Ellinwood, remain in limbo over the fate of their building and the razing of a building connected to it.
Cassie Batchman said they were granted a meeting last Wednesday with Ellinwood City Attorney Bob Peter, City Manager Bud Newberry and Mayor Irlan Fullbright. The purpose is to discuss the state of a partially completed demolition that is affecting their business and personal lives.
“It didn’t go well,” Cassie Batchman said of the conference. The Cutting Edge is attached to the damaged properties via a shared exterior wall, and since February the owners have not been able to secure insurance for their shop.
After two hours, it became clear, the city was not interested in the Batchman’s solution, she said. The couple would like the city to make an offer to purchase The Cutting Edge and the neighboring building attached to it, which they also own, so they can move their business and move on with their lives.
While the Batchmans say they are seeking a buyout for fair market value, the city has been unwilling to discuss this option with them, Batchman said.
On Tuesday, the Tribune met with Newberry, who stepped into his position in April, long after the demolition process had been started.
He explained when he arrived, he was advised that since the Batchmans had retained a lawyer, all communication with them should go through Peter, so Newberry had not had any contact with them. When they attempted to contact him, he was deferred to Peter.
When asked what the next steps are for the city, Newberry said the city has no other choice but to complete the project with as little damage to the Batchman’s property as is possible.
“The city has an obligation to tear the building down, clear away the debris, and smooth the lot so it can be made productive as soon as humanly possible,” he said.
But, Newberry sought recommendations for an engineer with some expertise with old buildings. He was uncertain the kind of expertise the city needed could be found.
That’s when representatives of Sts. Peter and Paul Church of rural Ellinwood suggested he consult with Donald McMican, a structural engineer with DGM Consultants of Overland Park. He is an expert in renovation and demolition of old buildings, and was brought in when Sts. Peter and paul needed to replace the steeple.
A visit is expected soon, and Newberry said McMican will also want to visit with the demolition contractor and others in the community.
Newberry has a construction background, having worked in commercial construction during the 1980s before taking up a career in public service. He doubts if he had been in his current position when the city considered buying the properties at 102 Main Street that he would have been able to have been convinced it was a good idea.
“It’s amazing how so many people felt positive about the city’s original plan, and how quickly it blew up into such a problem,” he said.
Prior to the 1930’s, most commercial buildings on main street had shared walls, as it was common for owners to allow neighbors to simply build onto the existing exterior wall rather than build their own, he said. In addition, the building materials, primarily brick, were far more crude than what is in common use today.
Bricks were often made locally, and they were fired at lower temperatures making them soft.
“A lot of liability comes with the purchase of an old building, and its imperative to know the condition of the building before you buy,” Newberry said. “We won’t be buying any more buildings to demolish as long as I’m in this position.”
Newberry admits that he has not been close enough to the partially demolished buildings to thoroughly examine them because to do so poses too much danger. He also has not been inside The Cutting Edge Salon, the building owned by the Batchmans.
For now, the city will wait until McMican has had a chance to make his determinations for proceeding with the demolition.
When asked if the city had any idea that the Batchman’s building could be damaged by the demolition, Newberry said because he was not there, he could not say. And, while he sympathizes with the Batchmans, Mark Batchman’s background in construction has to be taken into account, he said.
“Common sense dictates he had to know that at the very least some minor damage would be done,” he said.
When the demolition is completed sometime in the future, Newberry said the City of Ellinwood and the Batchman’s will have to take up the issue of who will be responsible for any work needing to be done to the now-exposed wall.