PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth City Council may choose not to fund the $6,500 for another study on the structure of the city building.
At Monday’s Mayor’s Conference session of the Portsmouth City Council meeting, Portsmouth Mayor David Malone brought forward a request from the city’s building committee to hire Tanner Stone Holsinger Dongess to do a structural study, but that request was met with opposition.
In a letter to Malone, Judges Russell D. Kegley and Steven L. Mowery, agreed to finance the cost of the structural engineering report at a cost not to exceed $6,500, with the following terms - “Council and the building committee will agree to follow the recommendations of the engineering report, and do so in a timely manner, and in the event the recommendations of the engineer are not followed in a timely manner, the funds expended by the court for this study shall be re-paid to the court by City Council.”
Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill reminded the Council of the previous times this course of action had been suggested.
“The last time we brought a request, I believe we had some kind of discussion about, do you have money to do this,” Sturgill said. “And I thought the response was, we don’t have any money for a request like that.”
Malone said they had been unable to find the money in the actual operating funds, which is why he approached the judges.
When legislation is discussed in the conference session, all items usually come with four alternatives - “Authorize the resolution as outlined above,” “Modify this request,” “Take no action,” and “Reject this request.”
“I actually have a concern with (alternatives) one and two because I’m not really sure what a recommendation of this report is going to be,” Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones said. “They could recommend that we replace the entire building. I don’t know. And if we’re stuck with following that report…”
Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler, who chairs the building committee, said any report filed with Council by the building committee would simply be a recommendation. He explained that this study would be to find out if the interior of the exterior walls are sound enough for the structure to be modified and rehabilitated.
“I understand that,” Jones said. “I just don’t think that is what the judges are saying.”
“Well, at worst it’s a loan,” President of Council John Haas said.
“The courts have been on this for a number of years, and with this, they are saying, ‘hey, let’s move it along,’” Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Kalb said.
One of the important points made during the long discussion was that the city has had a couple of other studies and had paid for those to be done.
“We did find out that there was a structural study done on this building in 2006. That document is in the (City) Clerk’s office,” Malone said. “I contacted the individual who did the study. We talked today and he alerted me to the fact that it was in the Clerk’s office, or at least that’s where he thought it was. I came up and asked the Clerk if she knew of a document like this study, and she found it. The scope of the study dealt with the exterior wall. That’s why the scope wasn’t quite as detailed as the committee needed.”
Malone responded to Saddler’s assertion that the report does not deal with the actual structure of the building.
“Actually it does deal with the actual structure of the building,” Malone said. “It is stated in the report saying that the structure itself is probably not economically feasible to put anymore money into the building.”
“So we’re gonna put $6,500 more into it for what reason?” Sturgill asked.
Malone said when the request from the building committee came, they did not know that the other report existed.
“We’re asking for $6,500 for yet another study on this building when we’re in a state of fiscal caution, possibly even worse after this year after some of the adjustments we have had to make, it is very difficult to keep going back to State Auditor and saying we keep spending more and more money and justifying these expenditures,” Jones said. “There is no justification in my opinion for this expenditure at this time. We are in a fiscal crisis.”
Malone said the funds would come from the courts.
“I understand that Mayor, but they’re public funds,” Jones said. “It’s money that’s generated through tax dollars or fines. It’s still public money being utilized. We can call it court money. We can call it General Fund money. We can call it Capitol Improvement money. It’s still public money that’s being spent. And we have to go back to the Auditor and say, here’s the justification for doing it when we have no money to do it.”
Council chose Alternative 1 and will bring it forward to be voted on after the next building committee meeting.
Malone said he was quoting from a study done by Lock One Engineering, and he reiterated the study said it is not feasible to rehab the current building.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com