City should have given locals chance to bid

Published 10:52 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Memorial Hall was built about 1890 as a tribute to the Civil War veterans. Its last use was during the 1990s, housing the city service offices.

It was vacated around this time because of its state of ill repair. Various city officials, developers and concerned individuals, have explored many options for the building since that time.

A memorandum from Campbell and Associates states in part, “Approximately a quarter of the roof is in (imminent) danger of further collapse which will most likely ram the alley side exterior wall causing potential collapse outward and harm to adjacent property and human life.”

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It further recommends steps to take to stabilize the structure. Solid Rock Construction did an asbestos inspection the following week.

These two documents were the basis for the mayor to declare an emergency exists as he did. The mayor must then take steps to prevent the immediate danger to the citizens.

Surrounding the building with a fence, blocking Market Street and half of 4th Street with a temporary fence were the correct things to do.

This would have abated the immediate danger. The mayor went one step further and awarded a no-bid $185,000 contract to one of the companies that helped determine the extent of the danger.

This company is from Portsmouth.

About three to four inches of wet snow accumulated on the roof before any demolition occurred. This amount of snow literally weighs tons. The ability of the roof to carry the extra weight without collapse makes one suspicious as to just how much of an emergency actually exists.

The building has stood for more than 100 years. It’s hard to believe that the city fathers could not take another week after securing the site to get a few other bids on the actual work that needed to be done. This is where I take issue with the decision.

There are several companies located in the city capable of doing this work. If you add Lawrence County, we have four or five other companies capable of doing this contract. It would seem that we should support our local businesses first, especially considering the time of year and the economic conditions that exist in our area.

My employees all live in the city. Any machinery or subcontractors we would use on this project would come from Lawrence County. I would have been willing to accept the contract as written for $120,000 saving the city $65,000.

Is this being fiscally responsible? Did these elected officials act in your best interest? You be the judge.