A city inspection of the Union Rescue Mission at 3000 Confederate Blvd., which the city has purchased for future use as a day resource center for the homeless, has turned up a number of code violations that needed immediate attention, officials confirmed.
The city purchased the building for $210,000 on Aug. 30, concluding a transaction approved by the city Board of Directors in June. Its total budget for purchase and upgrades is estimated at nearly $600,000, if an anticipated contribution comes through from North Little Rock. The funding derives from $290,000 in CDBG grants, $175,000 from the state, $8,000 from a special account and North Little Rock's anticipated third of that total, Assistant City Manager Bryan Day said. That would leave a little less than $400,000 for improvements.
Day said the city is addressing "life-safety issues" first, the most significant being that there is just one set of stairs to the third floor, which had been serving as a sleeping area for Union Rescue Mission clients. At the city's instruction, that floor is now closed off.
The city is also installing emergency lighting in the building, adding smoke detectors and adding two fire doors to the basement, which is also a dorm.
Dr. William D. Tollett, executive director of the Union Rescue Mission, said the building, built in 1929 and occupied by the mission since 1949, had been grandfathered in and as such was not out of compliance. As a new owner, the city had to bring the building up to code. Day said the city, to save money, is using a lot of its own employees to upgrade the building.
The mission will lease the building from the city for the next 12 months (with an option for a 12-month extension) for $3,000 a month while it raises money to build a new facility on Confederate. The city plans to open its day resource center in January; it will have 1,500 square feet for exclusive use on the first floor and will share another 6,000 square feet with the mission, though the populations will not be mixed.
The city has other significant expenses: The building does not have central heating and air-conditioning, is not ADA accessible and needs a new roof on a portion of the building. The first floor windows need repairing, and wiring will have to be modified for the new HVAC system. The city plans to build a privacy fence around the property.
Eventually, Day said, the city will expand the shower and laundry facilities, and improve the access to the third floor, including adding a second exit. The city is considering buying a vacant lot adjacent to the west side of the building for an exercise area for users. Mayor Mark Stodola has said that vans will provide transport to the day resource center.
"We knew the building needed a lot of work," Day said. "I don't want to say we knew all these problems existed."
The city has not finalized a budget for operations for the center. North Little Rock is again expected to contribute a third of the costs. This year, River City Ministries ran the resource center with a budget of $276,650, which included $90,000 from North Little Rock. Operating money comes out of the general fund.