Editor's Note: This is Part Three of a four-part series about the past, present and future of the former F.E. Myers Pump Company complex and Pump House Ministries.
ASHLAND - If there’s one thing Pump House Ministries, Ashland County and the City of Ashland can all agree on, it’s that they’re ready to put the Pump House foreclosure process behind them.
The Pump House wants to shed the expenses of cleanup and back taxes, to rebuild community trust and to restart local ministry work that has essentially ceased.
The city has an interest in seeing the properties are cleaned up and put to good use, and the county is happy to facilitate.
What’s next for Pump House?
County prosecutor Chris Tunnell said he has no plans to file a foreclosure complaint for Pump House’s office and catering building, as operations there still seem to be viable.
Once that building is all that remains in the Pump House’s ownership, bookkeeper Greg McFarlin said Pump House hopes to make some needed repairs to the building and then to rebuild its ministry, possibly by reopening a men’s shelter on the building's fourth floor.
“I think we stay in business because we think God has a purpose for us here, and somehow this is somewhat of a test, and we’re going to pass this test,” McFarlin said. “All we’re trying to do is serve.”
If someone gave a donation to the ministry today, McFarlin said, “It would probably go to the next crisis.”
Last year, he said, Pump House had $10,000 remaining after expenses and used that money to pay a debt owed to the IRS for failure to pay payroll tax after the 2013 fire.
“We know we’ve made mistakes down here,” McFarlin said. “We haven’t been as forthcoming at times as we should have been. We’ve circled the wagons when we should have opened up.”
As part of his desire for transparency, McFarlin said he intends to help the Pump House begin filing 990 forms to show the community “we have nothing to hide.”
Because it is exempted as a church, Pump House has never filed a 990, the form charities typically submit to the IRS to declare income and expenses and to demonstrate compliance with the legal qualifications for tax exemption.
The Pump House currently owes $208,738 in property taxes, not including the $104,360 owed on the property that is subject to the pending foreclosure.
McFarlin said Pump House is still hoping the tax delinquency on the books can be forgiven through a tax amnesty program.
What’s next for the old Myers property?
The city has already acquired several parcels of former Myers and Pump House land. Mayor Matt Miller has made clear that he wants to be part of the solution to put the entire area to good use.
“It is the geographic center of the city of Ashland, and when all of this is finalized, it appears the city may own a great deal of this land, if not all of it,” Miller said. “For years we’ve been talking about getting this mess cleaned up, and everyone is always waiting on someone else or something else to fall into place before we do it. Well, the time is now.”
Miller said people have come to him with ideas for the land that range from a conventional central park to something less conventional, like an ice skating rink.
Miller said he wants to enlist professional community planners to help community leaders decide what to do with the space.
“A lot of it will depend on the environmental condition of the soils once everything is removed,” Miller said. “Our number one priority is to get it to a condition where at the bare minimum it’s green space.”
In addition to tackling the Myers property, Miller said he wants to get the old Hess and Clark Factory just north of the Myers complex cleaned up as well.
“It’s now in a state that it’s so dangerous that our fire and police departments won’t send their guys in there in the event of an emergency, because you don’t know where you might fall through the floor or if the roof might collapse,” Miller said of the Hess and Clark building.
Miller emphasized that while he does not want the city to be in the real estate business, he feels city leaders should take a proactive approach to find solutions for dilapidated structures like the old Myers site.
“If that means we have to own, on a short-term basis, some of these properties so we can get them into the hands of developers or community organizations that can improve them, I think it’s a wise investment,” he said.
The key to getting the site cleaned up, Miller believes, will be public-private partnership.
“Individuals have come forward in the past year and said they would be willing to help with the cleanup efforts, and possibly even fund them, but they would not do it if the properties were under the current ownership,” Miller said.
As an example of success that can be achieved through a public-private partnership, Miller cited Ariel-Foundation Park in Mount Vernon.
The 250-acre park was built on the sites of a former gravel pit and a former glassworks.
It was a project on a far larger scale than the one Ashland would be undertaking if it takes on the Myers site, but Miller believes there may be much to be learned from a nearby community's success.