Memorial Hall decision doesn’t add up

Published 9:56 am Thursday, January 15, 2009

In a response to my prior letter to the editor, Councilman Leo Johnson correctly states that I was a city councilman from 2003 to 2005.

I inherited Memorial Hall along with all the other woes of the city at that time. I made many votes as a councilman during that time frame.

I assessed the data and formulated my vote. Each vote was my vote and I accept personal responsibility for each of them.

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I always assumed every council before me did the same. I never blamed prior administrations for their actions and always believed they acted in good faith when they made their decisions.

Quite frankly Mr. Johnson, you have now served three years on council, the problems are yours, and you need to step up and take responsibility for your actions and not blame others.

The contract written by Solid Rock Construction and signed by the city does not address a performance bond, payment bond, or prevailing wage. While some may argue that it doesn’t apply in this case, I believe this contract ignores Section 153 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Performance and payment bonds protect the taxpayer and the city. Prevailing wage protects each of the employees working on this project.

They are entitled to receive the prevailing wage. It makes no sense to over pay the contractor by at least $65,000 and not protect the rights of the workers that are actually out there doing the work.

I am willing to help any of the workers employed on this job to get the wages they are entitled to receive. No contract like this ever passed on my watch, Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson states further, “Solid Rock is the best and most qualified contractor to complete this project.”

I can only wonder what gives Mr. Johnson the expertise to make such a broad statement. He has never dealt with a project of this scope and magnitude to my knowledge.

This speaks volumes of what he and others must think of the very qualified contractors and workforce of Ironton and Lawrence County.

Almost every school in the county built before 1950 has dealt with asbestos and lead problems.

Most public buildings built before the first half of the last century probably have asbestos and lead paint, including the current city building and hospital. The presence of asbestos in Memorial Hall was hardly unexpected.

Mr. Johnson stated, “To bid this job out would require six weeks.” This is an attempt to cloud the issue.

He and I both know that once the mayor declares an emergency formal bidding is not required. I never questioned the mayor’s ability to declare an emergency and I never asked for formal bidding when he did.

What I did ask for was a second and third quote on the work to be done and this could have been accomplished in a few days, not six weeks.

It makes no sense to me to allow one company to assess the damage, declare that a life threatening situation exists, devise a fix, write the specifications and contract, omit the parts that protect the taxpayers and workers and set the contract price at $185,000.

Fiscal responsibility is to at the very least ask for another assessment, find out if there is another fix, get a couple of other bids and use a standard AIA contract that protects the taxpayer and the worker.

This reminds me of a classic children’s fairy tale. I’m sure we all remember Chicken Little crying, “The sky is falling and I must go tell the king.”

Our officials are charged with first ascertaining if the sky is falling and then if $185,000 is a fair price to pay for keeping the sky from falling. I ask again, is this being fiscally responsible? Did these elected officials act in your best interest?

You be the judge.

Bill Nenni is an Ironton business owner and former city councilman.