“I respectfully request that a Marting’s Foundation representative contact the Mayor as soon as possible to discuss the final plans to end this 10 year soap opera with the Marting’s property,” Sturgill said. “Since Portsmouth owns the building, and two times the voters have decided they don’t want to spend anymore money on this property. As far as I’m concerned the voters have spoken. However, I want to get my two cents in on the plan. The city needs to contract a realtor, and if the realtor can not sell that property in a six-month period, I would recommend the Marting’s Foundation agree to use remaining funds from the purchase to level and develop that property after that six months is over. That development may include a parking lot or design a nice green space in the middle of downtown that one day may be suitable for downtown economic development. If there are funds that remain after this is completed, I would hope the Marting’s Foundation would assist the city with future economic development in the downtown area.”
Sturgill said the Marting’s building controversy is one that won’t go away until the city can move forward with a plan.
First Ward Portsmouth City Councilman Kevin Johnson said he is not scrapping a plan to sell the Marting’s building, despite a recent event in which a deal with a non-profit fell through after a discussion about the group possibly purchasing the building and leasing back space to the city. Johnson was clear he is continuing to pursue a deal even without a current bidder.
“I’m following up with some financial people to follow through on the concept, so we can see in dollars and cents what it can turn out to be,” Johnson said. “I know this is a mental exercise, and I know when it was presented we were saying we don’t know if this will work or not. I would still be anxious to see if it would have.”
Johnson said the Marting’s building should be considered along with any other suggestions the building committee would come up with. Johnson was on a similar committee before becoming a member of City Council, working to come up with options, only to see the suggestions come to nought.
Portsmouth Mayor David Malone said there had been some confusion as to what the goals of the building committee are, and he is currently looking to fill two slots on the committee - slots created when two members resigned two weeks ago at the height of the controversy over the discussions about the building being made public. One of those members, Mistie Spicer did not resign because of the controversy, while the chairman, Alan Barlow, did.
“I have been working to make contacts and get commitments,” Malone said. “As of this time we haven’t had any. But we’re still working on that for the March 21 date when the next meeting is scheduled.”
Malone said the mission hasn’t changed.
“We just have to re-commission a couple of individuals,” Malone said.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com