Buffalo Reuse works to get warehouse in service

August 20, 2013 Updated Aug 20, 2013 at 8:22 AM EDT

By Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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Buffalo Reuse works to get warehouse in service

August 20, 2013 Updated Aug 20, 2013 at 8:22 AM EDT

Nonprofit officials at Buffalo Reuse say a filing snafu is partly to blame for a condemnation notice from the City of Buffalo that resulted in the shut down of its warehouse late last month.

The organization, which resells salvaged building materials from homes prior to demolition, has spent the past three-plus weeks working to reopen its warehouse.

City inspectors condemned the building at 296 East Ferry on July 24, noting the building was full of combustibles but without a working sprinkler or fire alarm system.

The facility, the former Kauffman's Bakery site at the corner of Dupont Street, houses both the offices of Buffalo Reuse as well as its warehouse and retail operation.

Kitty Lambert-Rudd, who joined the organization as executive director just days before the closing, said the agency's seven full- and part-time workers continue to volunteer their efforts while the group works to reopen the leased space.

"It's been a bit of a challenge," she said. "We went into this knowing we had some things to take care of and had drawn up our plans and submitted them to the city in January, then ran into a snafu. The plans were somehow misplaced and they were under the understanding we had never followed up and done anything."

"The city of Buffalo has been great to work with us to resolve this problem as quickly."

The fire safety plan is a required piece of the permitting process. Instead of installing a full commercial sprinkler system, the agency consulted with an architect who helped create a more efficient plan that relies on fire doors to help compartmentalize the building. It also has collected several bids from fire alarm companies to outfit the building.

According to Lambert-Rudd, the agency wants to keep workers and fire fighters safe in the event of a fire, but it also is trying to respect its own beliefs about materials reuse.

Because the former bakery has lots of open spaces, the agency decided it would not heat the building at all in the winter months, which makes installing a sprinkler system impossible. The existing sprinkler system was outdated, with the cost of just replacing the sprinkler heads estimated to cost over $30,000, which was both cost-prohibitive and not particularly "green."

"Our goal is to eliminate as much as possible from our landfills, anything that can be reused, recycled or repurposed," she said.

Before reopening the doors, the agency must purchase 15 fire extinguishers, at a combined cost of $1,500-$2,000 plus install a fire alarm system, which could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, Lambert-Rudd said.

Founded in 2006, Buffalo Reuse has undergone several major changes in the past few years beginning with the ouster of founder Michael Gainer in 2009. Revenue has dropped in recent years as well from a high of nearly $500,000 in fiscal 2009 to about $200,000 now.

The board of directors has refocused on the agency's mission as it works to turn things around, said Vincent Kuntz, board president and owner of Alliance Builders.

"It's a constant look at what are we doing that's working, and what are we doing that isn't and maybe shouldn't be anymore," he said. "It's been something of a right-sizing over the past few years."

A fundraiser has been planned for Aug. 30 at the El Museo Art Gallery on Allen Street, with tickets available at $25 apiece. Information is available by calling Lambert-Rudd at 578-3782.

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