A division between emotion and money already shows in the people charged with recommending the future of the fire-ravaged Credit Island Lodge.
More than a dozen volunteers from the committee, along with media and a few city workers, toured the still-smelly lodge to get a closeup of the damage that resulted from a May 2 blaze. The worst of the damage is on the second floor, which is where the fire is believed to have started. The cause has been deemed undetermined.
Led by Public Works Director Mike Clarke, committee members were given hard hats and warned to tread cautiously inside the lodge. The perils were obvious, as charred remains of roof trusses hung ominously above the dark, damp first floor.
"We're going in a building that's been through a lot," Clarke warned before the tour. "Just pay real close attention."
City workers cleared a foot-traffic path where they could, blocking off some sections of the lodge that were too dangerous to navigate.
Even though it is constructed primarily of brick and mortar, the building has continued to deteriorate in the weeks since the fire, Jim Forsyth, city risk manager, said.
"The elements take their toll," he said. "If it was Sheetrock, it would be worse."
In addition to warning members of the advisory committee, which hopes to make a recommendation to the city council at its first August meeting, Clarke urged them to keep an open mind.
"You're in for an eye-opening experience," he said. "Erase those ... preconceived notions."
But some of the committee members clearly had an unshakable emotional attachment to the old lodge.
Mary Cornier, vice president and secretary of Friends of Credit Island, had no problem looking past the black mold, the soaked ceiling tiles that hung from walls and counters, the wide rays of sunlight that fell on charred beams and the smell of smoke. Through it all, she still could see the one-time beauty of a historic island lodge, even though she witnessed the final moments of the devastating fire.
"The place is not something to just throw away," she said, her voice cracked with emotion. "I still think something positive can come out of this ordeal. This place should not be eliminated. It's too beautiful, too much history. You don't just let something go because it looks bad."
Committee member Mike Peppers also saw potential in the rubble of a collapsed staircase.
"I think it's totally rebuildable, it looks like," he declared.
But, in the parking lot outside, Art Petersen offered an entirely different appraisal.
"It's a mess, terrible," he said. "I don't see a way of salvaging without a huge, huge cost. It reminds me of our Legion Post down at the old Dock restaurant — flood and fire. This is even worse than I thought."
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Even the lodge seemed torn about its ability to survive. While parts of it, especially upstairs, appeared soaked and seared beyond repair, other areas were barely touched. For instance, the ceiling in the first-floor common area sustained considerable water damage, but one section, just above the fireplace, was almost perfect. In fact, the glass wall sconces on either side of the fireplace are undamaged, except that one is half-filled with water.
The condition of the lodge is not the only consideration for the advisory committee. Members also have to keep rebuilding costs prominently in mind, including a formula used by FEMA to determine how much money can be pumped back into the flood-prone structure. To entirely rebuild and remove the lodge from the 100-year floodplain, it would have to be raised 9 feet.
The city's insurance company has come through with a $390,000 payment from the fire, and Clarke said he expects the final payment to be between $1.2 million and $1.4 million, pending the closure of the fire investigation. Meanwhile, three bids have been submitted for temporary protection of the building.
Two bids included a structured roof, complete with new trusses, plywood and shingles. A third bid includes a free-standing tent-like structure, which is the most costly among the $126,000 to $146,000 bid range.
Despite the higher cost of the tent-like option, Clarke said he prefers it, because it would be reusable for a number of purposes, including storage. Plus, he added, an entirely new roof would be a waste of money if the lodge ultimately is condemned.
Members of the advisory committee agreed to meet weekly until the first of August to come up with their council recommendation.
Clarke urged caution there, too, advising the volunteers to be honest with their opinions while keeping their discussions respectful.