City Council discusses future of First Baptist Church
By VERNON ROBISON
The Mesquite City Council discussed the uncertain future of the former First Baptist Church building at a meeting on Tuesday evening, March 22. The building has been owned by the city for a year but has remained unoccupied during that time. By the time last week’s discussion was over, a possible solution to this complex problem had presented itself from an unexpected avenue.
At the start of the discussion, Deputy Chief Executive Martine Green explained that she had put the item on the agenda to possibly receive direction on what the council would like to do with the building. Green said the city got the old church building, located at 700 Hardy Way, through a property swap with the First Baptist Church organization. It was swapped directly for the old Arcon building on Hafen Lane which the town owned.
“We originally made the exchange, building for building, with the intention of using the old church as a daycare center,” Green said.
It was hoped it would help fill a major need in the city by providing additional daycare facilities for working families, Green said. But after reviewing regulatory requirements for daycare, it quickly became clear the building would not be viable for that use, she said.
“So at this point we’re looking for direction on what to do next,” Green said.
In 2020, an appraisal returned to $1.15 million on the 9,600 square foot building on its 2.5 acre lot.
Mesquite Mayor Al Litman pointed out that it would take “a significant sum of money” to bring the building to the point where it could be leased for another use.
“If you’re looking at renting it out at fair market value — if we were to make improvements — it would take many years of rent before you get any return on your investment,” Litman said.
Most council members initially expressed a desire to simply put the property up for sale as is.
“I think my preference would be to sell it,” adviser George Gault said. “Certainly not to rent it or lease it at the non-profit rate of 40 cents per square foot. I think the $1 million plus sale price might tie up the budget.
Council members Karen Dutkowski, Sandra Ramaker and Wes Boger each made similar comments expressing a preference to put the property up for sale.
Councilman Brian Wursten hasn’t ruled out selling the property. But he also expressed his willingness to see what arrangements could be made to hire him as well.
“I would just like to see us pursue all options,” he said. “Not just to say that one thing is all we’re going to do. If we have someone who really wants to rent it, and there’s no one who wants to buy it, why not look at this.
Wursten acknowledged that the cost could be high to make improvements to the building. But he pointed out that even then, after the lease ends, the city would still own the property as an asset.
Near the end of the conversation, Litman suggested the city get an updated appraisal on the property and then advertise it for sale or lease.
“Then we might just see what pops up,” he said. “First solid check in hand and we’re getting rid of it one way or another, either renting it out or selling it. It don’t do nothing to us, just sitting there.
But just before asking for a motion, Litman opened the floor for public comment. And an unexpected online live comment was received.
The commentator, who was present only by audio, identified himself as Brian Rogers of Crown Cork & Seal, a major global aluminum can maker which is building a huge factory in the industrial park area of Mesquite.
Rogers said Crown has an interest in leasing space for a temporary office and training center for its project in the community. And they might be interested in renting the building in question, he said.
‘I would like council to leave this open perhaps for discussion and input from Crown Cork and Seal to get this building back in order and also leave it in good condition for sale when it comes back to council,’ Rogers said.
This proposal changed the course of the discussion.
“Well, that adds something more interesting,” Litman said. “We know Crown is coming here and we know what they are planning to do.”
The Mayor suggests that the item be postponed for further discussion.
“I agree with that,” Boger said. “We absolutely need to make sure Crown has everything they need to start operating their plant here. So I’m certainly open to tabling it.
Boger moved to table the item and it was unanimously approved.