FULTON, Ill. — The historic Fidelity/Drives Building fundraising team set out to secure $250,000 in pledges. As of now, the team can say it has achieved that goal.
But while the fund-raising goal has been reached, there has been some friction among the Fulton City Council, members of the public, and soon-to-be members of the city’s administration. That friction has mostly focused on vague plans and questions about where the project is headed.
After beginning fundraising in late January, and now with May on the horizon, the group says it is ready to seek bids to remodel the building. The total amount raised is $350,000 with $250,000 coming from the pledges and $100,000 from a grant that will provide for the construction of an elevator for the building.
Chuck Dykstra, who led the fund-raising effort for the Drives Building Committee, spoke at the City Council meeting Monday, talking about the project’s progress.
“I really see this as a boon for our city and hope you’ll move it forward,” Dykstra said.
The council moved it forward, voting 5-1 to authorize the committee to advertise for bids to remodel the building for public use using the pledged funds.
The Drives Building was built in 1913 as an office for the Mystic Workers of the World, which eventually became Fidelity Life in 1930. The building was expanded in 1925, and Fulton High School played basketball in the addition until 1950.
According to a city history of the building, Drives, Inc. purchased the property in 1974 and stayed until 2009. During those years other businesses rented out portions, including a dentist office, food pantry and bank. The city of Fulton took ownership of the property in October 2010.
One of the reasons there has been friction was a lack of a perceived plan moving forward, according to Mike Ottens, who will become Fulton’s mayor at the May 1 meeting. He said while he applauded the passion of the fund-raising effort, he thought any vote that would take place is “premature” because there are too many unknowns.
“I would think tonight just pause and let us get those two unknowns answered and you, the decision-makers, can make an informed fiscal determination,” Ottens said.
There seemed to be confusion on what the council was actually authorizing, but Alderwoman Barb Mask directed everyone to the wording of the motion, which states authorization to “advertise for bids to remodel the building for public use.”
She wanted to calm fears that things were moving too fast and said the council action Monday wouldn’t move anything forward, it just allows them to seek bids for a basic remodel.
The questions that were left unanswered before the vote include what the group will be explicitly asking companies to bid on. Alderwoman Sue Van Kampen mentioned that the bids would contain the public bathrooms, the elevator, windows, electrical components, and other components required to get the building ready for “public use.”
The final proposed use of the building has not been designated yet, but talk has centered around use as a potential conference center or banquet hall in addition to space for other city activities.
The council also voted on funding a portion of the roof repair for the south side of the building, with the council voting 4-2, with Eugene Field and Margaret Crosthwaite voting no, to contribute $10,000 to the roof repair contingent on the committee raising funds for the rest. The bid for the roof from Beckwith Roofing was for $34,919 for roofing and $5,796 for seamless gutters and downspouts.