Lee’s Summit hits snag in redoing 1939 downtown post office

03/25/2014 12:00 AM

03/24/2014 7:20 PM

Lee’s Summit’s plan for $2.9 million in cultural arts projects has hit another glitch. Funding appears to be short for renovating a historic downtown building for a museum.

The plan was to restore a former 1939 U.S. Post Office, built by the Works Progress Administration, and lease the building to the Lee’s Summit Historical Society. For years the building had served as City Hall, then was leased to ReDiscover after city offices moved.

Work was to include restoring the lobby to its 1930s look, with the teller window and postmaster’s office. Murals were to be cleaned and restored, and the mail room was to be taken back to open space then filled with display cases, plus technology for various exhibits.

Construction bids received this month were so high that completing basic work for renovating the building could eat away all the money, leaving the historical society without support for exhibiting its large collection. Many of those artifacts are in storage.

Deputy City Manager Brian Scott said the bids were “considerably higher” than anticipated. They range from $627,000 to $692,114.

The entire budget was $660,000, with only $450,000 slated for the renovation. The remainder was for architects and engineering, furniture, fixtures and equipment to set up the museum space.

The city rejected the bids, and officials are considering ways to cut back.

“We’re disappointed. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” said Kathy Smith, president of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society.

Another issue has arisen with the building as well. When the project’s budget was set, the city didn’t include roof repairs or re-pointing the brick exterior.

In later assessments of the property’s condition, the city has gotten advice from a roofer and two masonry contractors. They said replacing mortar between bricks would be needed in the near future at a cost of $60,000 to $70,000. The roof needs about $84,000 in work.

That’s in addition to bids already taken for restoration.

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