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AUBURN — The owners of the Osborne Library requested 60 more days to try to raise over $300,000 to save the historic building that was once part of Thomas Mott Osborne’s home. 

Auburn Historic Resources Review Board member Ed Onori said during the board's meeting Tuesday that it would cost around $500,000 to stabilize the nearly 110-year-old building, which has an 8-foot hole in the roof and a slew of other structural problems. The Osborne Center for Social Justice, the group that owns the 3 Fitch Ave. building, paid Beardsley Architects and Engineers $5,000 to assess the building's condition and provide an estimate for renovation costs. Onori, who is a senior architectural designer with the firm, presented the report to the board. 

In order to stabilize the building, Onori said, the roof deck, which supports the concrete roof, will need to be replaced, as well as the roof itself and the exterior parapet walls, which are walls that go above the roof line. Water has gotten into the exterior walls, causing the bricks to fall off. The roof is also leaking in several places. Onori said he believes there is hazardous materials in the structure that would need to be abated as well.

"All in all, yes the building can be saved but it's something that needs to be taken care of soon, real soon," he said. 

In the early 2000s, the library's former owner, the Auburn United Methodist Church, received a $100,000 matching grant from the state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office to repair the roof. That grant is still available and the justice center has about $50,000 of the needed $100,000 match, Osborne Center for Social Justice Chair James Loperfido said. The owners would still need to raise $300,000 more, even with the state grant. 

"You think you can come up with that in 60 days?" HRRB board member Richard Stankus asked Loperfido.

"I think we can come up with a plan for it in 60 days," he replied. 

Director of Capital Projects Christina Selvek encouraged Loperfido to submit a state Consolidated Funding Application, which are due at the end of July. 

"You're the owners and if your goal is to save the building then you need to be working toward that," Selvek said. "This group would like to see it repaired. We don't want to see anymore demolition in the (historic) district. But we can't let buildings continue on that could potentially could be a health and safety hazard either."

Onori said it would be possible to just patch the hole in the roof initially to give the center more time to come up with the needed funds.  

The Osborne Library has been vacant for over 20 years. It was added to the Auburn Fire Department's vacant building registry in 2017 and in January 2018, the city of Auburn Code Enforcement Department placed a demolish or repair order on the building. 

The social justice center also owes nearly $11,000 in taxes to the city, according to the treasurer's office. Though the center is a non-profit, it has not registered with the city for a property tax exemption, Assessor Mike Burns said. Burns told The Citizen Tuesday that someone from the center had recently stopped in to pick up the tax exemption paperwork for the 2019 fiscal year. However, when The Citizen asked Loperfido after the meeting about the taxes owed, he remarked, "That's news to us."

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Staff writer Natalie Brophy can be reached at (315)282-2239 or Follow her on Twitter @brophy_natalie


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