As soon as the door opens to the Callaway Chamber of Commerce's basement, waves of warm, dank air waft through.
"There's a funk that comes out of there," said Kim Barnes, president of the Fulton Area Development Foundation, which rents the building at 510 Market St. along with the chamber. "People start coughing."
The FADF and chamber have rented the building from the city since 2014, at the rate of $1 per year; the city also covered portions of the building's utility bill. The five-year lease expires this year. During a work session preceding Tuesday's Fulton City Council meeting, the entities and the city continued the process of negotiation for a new lease.
"Evidence of commitment should become part of the lease in order to demonstrate good faith if the FADF/Chamber conclude 510 is a viable option (given the required investment) after comparison to alternate locations," a memo filed jointly by the FADF and chamber states.
To provide that evidence, the FADF/chamber are requesting a series of updates and fixes primarily related to the building's ongoing moisture problem in the basement.
That problem was evident from the beginning, Barnes said.
"There was a lot of mold in that building," she said. "As we gutted walls, we remediated that."
But the issue persists in the basement, for a variety of reasons, according to contractors hired by the chamber.
"The common thing everyone pointed to was the gutter system," Barnes said. "It's inadequate for the building's size."
Clogged by vegetation in some places, the gutters dump water right next to the building. Because the ground level is higher than the foundation in some places, water trickles in easily between the aged bricks. It also seeps through old, poorly caulked pipe openings and bricked-up windows.
In a couple spots, it drips down the walls right across wiring and light switches and onto the stairs, Barnes said. The sump pumps and drainage system are both open to the air and seem to drain poorly.
The basement's tenant, Carl McGeorge, of Mo-Fun.com, runs a residential-sized humidifier in the basement and regularly keeps the garage doors open.
"It helps us manage the condition of the building quite a lot, but his business may be changing locations," Barnes said.
If he's away for a couple of days, a moldy odor quickly permeates the rest of the building, she added.
Barnes offered a list of proposed fixes the FADF and chamber believe the city should handle, as they are roof, exterior and structural issues — all of which the city agreed to handle during the initial five-year lease. The repairs include fixing gutters, installing drainage, vine control, installing two dehumidifiers, updating the sump-pump systems, caulking gaps and repairing bricks, and fixing the leaking window.
Also a problem: the aging concrete ramp leading from ground level to the second story. It's slowly degrading and shifting, and it's pulling bricks out of the wall in the process. Once upon a time, when the chamber building was a car dealership, the ramp was used to drive cars up for display in the showroom.
Based on estimates given by contractors, Barnes told the council it should cost around $23,300.
In return, the FADF/chamber offered to shoulder the expense of replacing the six HVAC units over the coming years, for a cost of $25,000-$45,000. As part of the counter-offer in the memorandum, they also requested a one-year option for the FADF/chamber to terminate the lease if the city doesn't make the required fixes.
"It's about a shared investment," Barnes said. "This is a dialogue, not a fight."
As of Friday, the chamber hadn't yet received a response from the city, according to chamber Executive Director Tamara Tateosian.
"We have not heard back from them — I'm sure they'll have to have a meeting about it," she said. "We've given them something, they gave us something back. We're in the negotiation process right now.