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Duck will be demolished; future still fuzzy

Future development on Ironton’s riverfront is yet to be be determined. One thing, however, is certain: The building that once housed the Fuzzy Duck won’t be a part of it.

After a brief executive session on Thursday city council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Rich Blankenship to begin the bid process to have the former Fuzzy Duck structure demolished.

In an interview on Friday, however, Blankenship said although he has been given approval to bid the project, some factors have created a slight change of plans.

“I started thinking about the time and money involved in bidding this project out,” Blankenship said. “Why spend six weeks bidding it out and $20,000 of the city’s money on demolishing this building when I can have all the necessary testing done and our city employees can tear it down? I think that’s the route we should go.”

The restrooms and picnic shelter behind the building will not be torn down.

Several parties have expressed interest in developing the property and council authorized Blankenship during its Aug. 14 meeting to draft a lease including any and all requested stipulations for council’s consideration on Thursday.

“Two weeks ago I was given the task of preparing a lease for commercial property located on the riverfront, also known as the Fuzzy Duck, to be reviewed by council,” he said. “After extensive thought and talking with many different individuals I feel it is appropriate to present additional viable options for consideration. We have to think big about the re-development of our riverfront. I have the initial terms of the lease but I also have other options to be considered as well.”

Blankenship presented four scenarios: leasing the property to the Lawrence County Port Authority with the city approving the lease; the city putting the property out for bid with suggested requirements and stipulations; forming a committee to serve as guidance and submit a recommendation for best use of the property; demolish the building, retain the property for future use and search for a developer with the assistance of a committee or the port authority.

“After review of the property’s current state and meeting with the fire chief and state building code inspector the conclusion was that the building represents a significant liability to the city, even when leased to an operator,” Blankenship said. “Only a very strong developer would have the fiscal means to re-open the facility.”

Architect J. Michael Asebrook of the Columbus-based firm Asebrook and Company outlined several major issues including the absence of sprinklers, mold in the rear storage room, soft spots in areas of the floor from water damage, damage to restrooms that are also not handicapped accessible and roof shingles that are at least 12 years old.

“Based on the building’s current condition,” Asebrook said, “we strongly recommend demolishing the structure.”

Asebrook estimated construction budget at the $350,000.

Friends of Ironton President Rick Jansen spoke to council and noted that in the past when the city has requested help his group has obliged. Jansen said two years ago FOI donated $7,500 for floodwall pump parts and last year $1,200 was donated for a concrete saw used by the street department. Jansen said FOI also received a request for $6,580 for repairs to the Orchard Street pump station.

“We are making some contributions back to the city and want to continue doing so and being good citizens of this community,” Jansen said. “So far on the riverfront we have invested more than $6,000 between electrical improvements, road improvements, camping revenue, and weed eating and mowing. All we ask is that when you are making you real estate decisions, you keep us in mind and allow us to continue making contributions back to the city.”

Blankenship said with $830,000 in grant money already in place to develop the marina and the possibility of other grants for riverfront development that all options should be considered. He cited the Belmont subdivision, the Gateway Project on Ninth Street and the new Ironton-Russell Bridge as steps in the right direction.

“We have made many positive things happen in the last several years,” he said. “Why stop now?”