After some seven years, it appears the building that used to house the former Melton YMCA in southern Beaumont has a buyer.
But at least two members of the Beaumont City Council say it doesn’t appear the buyer is aware of the building’s history. And the city isn’t much closer to establishing a new recreation opportunity for children on the south side of Beaumont.
The Beaumont City Council last week approved an earnest money contract to move forward with the sale of the building at 3455 Sarah St. to Troy Marsaw for $325,000 – about half of the building’s appraised value.
Marsaw, owner of On-Site Counseling in the Houston area, plans to use the building to provide behavioral and mental health care outpatient services to clients of all ages, according to a brochure included in agenda documents.
Related: Southside residents return to council seeking activity center for kids
However, the building’s sale also carries a relatively vague, long-term lease with Donna Farrell. She runs a Recreation Education Complex, which provides services for disabled residents of all ages, from the facility. Her lease doesn’t specify how much of the building she legally is allowed to occupy.
Councilwoman Robin Mouton, whose district includes the building, said the lease, which expires in 2033, was the main reason the only other buyer to express serious interest in the property decided against its purchase.
Marsaw during the meeting said he believes the lack of specificity in the lease means Farrell has the right to only a portion of the space, and he can use the rest. But Councilman Mike Getz, who ultimately voted in favor of the earnest money contract in part to get the city out of the situation, said he expects the issue would ultimately lead to litigation between the two.
Farrell did not return a request for comment. Marsaw, when reached after the meeting, gave a short statement, saying he didn’t want to make something that he doesn’t believe is a story into one.
Top hits: Get Beaumont Enterprise stories sent directly to your inbox
“All I know is that the city owns the building, they want to sell it, and I’m interested in purchasing it,” he said.
The city’s ownership of the building over the years, even with Farrell’s lease, has provided hope to some south Beaumont residents who hope that one day it again could serve as a community gathering space.
The building was used as a YMCA facility until March 2010, when the board walked away from its lease. It was reopened by a coalition of churches and organizations as the L.L. Melton Family Life Center.
In 2013, the coalition decided it couldn’t continue operating the center.
Because a federal loan was used to construction a portion of the building, it had to be used to benefit a large number of low- to moderate-income residents. So, the city quickly had to enter into a new lease that would meet that purpose, which Farrell’s services do.
Regardless, that loan has since been repaid, Beaumont Director of Technology and Public Works Bart Bartkowiak said, and that requirement does not apply to the sale.
Related: Community lobbies Beaumont council for rec facility on the south side
The building’s vague lease ultimately halted calls from many south Beaumont residents to allow them after-hours access into the Melton building. Many of those residents showed up to several council meetings more than a year ago to call on the council to help them.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, Mouton asked if Marsaw would be open to allowing community access to the building in the evenings. He seemed generally agreeable to the idea, but when reached Friday Mouton said she was pretty sure he isn’t aware of the building’s history.
As a result, she said, she plans to try to set up a meeting with Marsaw to speak further.
If the sale goes through, Mouton said she also plans to see if the city can use the proceeds to fund a new recreation opportunity in the area.
“It’s not so much a want, it’s a need. It’s a need because the North End has the (Sterling Pruitt Activity Center). Our area of Ward IV does not have anything,” she said. “Alice Keith of course has the pool. But if you look at a child that resides anywhere near the L.L. Melton, you’re going east all the way to Alice Keith and, in the opposite direction, Tyrrell Park. That’s a big gap, a big distance for a child to travel.”
She said she understands it’s likely going to be a challenging budget year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but the sale would provide the city a surplus that should have a use.