Council in limbo on Memorial Hall

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

After a powerful storm blew the doors off of Memorial Hall on Aug. 16, an assessment report from Doug Cade of the engineering firm of E.L. Robinson was not promising.

He said while the outside walls were sound, the inside was not. In fact, he wasn’t allowed to go onto the third floor of the old city hall because the floors were in such dire shape.

When asked what his recommendation was, Cade told City Council that he didn’t have a recommendation but there were really only two options, which are to tear it down or repair it. Currently, Memorial Hall is fenced off so no can go inside.

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To tear it down would cost an estimated $200,000.

Cade’s estimate to fix the building up was around $7.7 million.

Renovation would require the inside of the building to be gutted and to have a new structure built inside because the floors are held up by wooden joists that are rotting away. The building has other safety issues and a leaky roof.

“The thing that makes this cost prohibitive is that there is asbestos and a lot of lead paint,” Cade said. “The stonework is the only salvageable thing. There are no significant amounts of metal.”

He said there are a number of historical markers on the building that the city should keep.

Council members said they weren’t comfortable with the idea of tearing down such an historic building, but were unsure if funds to save the building are available.

Cade said to gut the building and to put a steel structure on the outside to keep the building standing would cost around a half million dollars.

Rick McKnight, vice-president of the Friends of Ironton, spoke to council about leasing a piece of property behind the Ironton Hills Plaza near Moulton Field that the city uses for composting tree branches and lawn clippings.

The Friends would like to clear off the land and turn it into a Veterans’ Park with a stage, seating, lights and other things necessary for events.

McKnight said during the last weekend’s Rally on the River, it could have been used as a camping area for the bikers since it was so hard to find hotel accommodations.

He said that while there has been talk of putting some type of industry there, no one has come forward yet.

“If anyone were to build something industrial there, we would be the first one to get out for jobs, I promise,” McKnight said. “We just want the place for events.”

When asked about who was going to pay to clear the land and build the facilities, McKnight said that $150, 000 of the needed $225,000 had already been pledged to the Friends and an unidentified party had already agreed to clear the land for free.

“We wouldn’t have asked for the land if we didn’t have our ducks in a row,” he said. “We have some money, some commitments and we’ll get more.”

The Councilmen said they would have the city attorney draw up a contract and have the land go out to bid on the condition that it is used for a park.

In other items on the agenda, the council took the following actions:

4 Authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a $37,500 grant to be used for the development of a stream bank.

4 Made the intersection of South Fourth and Adams Street a three-way stop.

4 After much discussion and an explanation, authorized the mayor to purchase a Bobcat skid-steer loader for the Wastewater Treatment plant. The Bobcat will be used to take solid waste out of the plant.