Memorial Hall decision made most sense

Published 10:47 am Tuesday, December 30, 2008

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

As a city councilman, I would like to respond to these questions posed by Mr. Bill Nenni, himself a former city councilman from 2003 to 2005.

In the past year, Memorial Hall was finally thrust to the forefront. A decision by this Council and Mayor had to be made to either restore or demolish Memorial Hall.

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This after being essentially abandoned by the city government over ten years ago. Mr. Nenni states over the years various city officials, developers and concerned individuals “explored options”, but nothing was done.

Over the past year, several public meetings were held, along with countless public utility committee meetings concerning Memorial Hall.

From these meetings, ideas to save Memorial Hall were proposed but no funding was available given the scale of the project.

So once again, it became the responsibility of this Council and Mayor to do something with a structure left to us by past city administrations.

Not until representatives from the AMVETS came bravely forward to take on the task with whatever we as a city could provide was saving Memorial Hall a reality.

Memorial Hall became the No. 1 priority after a Dec. 4-8 certified asbestos survey was completed and revealed asbestos throughout the building including the roof.

Additionally, Solid Rock Construction reported during a public utility committee meeting on Dec. 3 , and again in a follow up meeting on Dec. 9, that the roof of Memorial Hall was in immediate danger of collapsing into the building.

Mr. Nenni states in his letter that he felt the fence was enough to abate the immediate danger to the public.

What he fails to mention, is the most immediate health risk to the public is due to the condition of the asbestos and its risk of becoming airborne if the roof were to collapse.

This would create an emergent public health hazard and potentially force the State of Ohio EPA to mandate that the city create a protection “bubble” surrounding Memorial Hall and to remove the entire structure.

The cost, close to one million dollars, which the city government does not have budgeted. To insinuate that an actual emergency did not exist flies in face of all the information presented to us during the aforementioned public meetings.

Solid Rock Construction’s owner is certified by the state of Ohio as an Asbestos Hazard Evaluation Specialist. Given his credentials, his company’s familiarity with working with the type of asbestos located within the building, and references obtained by Mayor Blankenship, we felt it best to proceed with this company.

To bid this job out would have required advertising and waiting over six weeks to make a decision on how to proceed and to our knowledge, no other asbestos specialist as qualified as Solid Rock Construction is located in Lawrence County, let alone Ironton.

Time was of the essence and City Council and Mayor Blankenship decided to act instead of wait.

Fiscally responsible? I say yes. The Mayor, with full support of City Council, chose the best and most qualified contractor to complete this project.

Best interest of the city? I again say yes. City Council and Mayor Blankenship chose to act immediately instead of waiting and potentially causing a serious public health hazard.


Ironton City Councilman