By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
Eighteen members of the community showed up in Portsmouth City Council chambers Wednesday night to attend a meeting of the City Building Steering Committee. Unfortunately, only two members of the 10-member committee showed up, a little short of a quorum.
As those in attendance sat, seemingly bewildered by what action would be taken, Portsmouth Mayor David Malone finally stood and advised Rich Saddler and Sharon Bender, the only two members of the committee at the table, to adjourn. Problem is, adjournment can’t take place unless a meeting is first called to order. And with no quorum, that couldn’t happen either.
The lack of an organized meeting did not stop a discussion between the two committee members and those in the gallery.
Saddler had two proposals ready to be presented, although he was quick to add they were not final proposals.
The first proposal calls for the construction of a new city building on existing city-owned property, and only if any of the existing property is able to accommodate a building and parking space, “of this size and in accordance with the City of Portsmouth and State of Ohio building codes. The proposal said the structure “shall not exceed” 53,000 square feet in design, and employee and public parking would be in addition to that footage.
He went on to say if there is no existing city-owned property available to build that option, “Part 1 – City Building Sites to be Considered” dated Sept. 26, 2006, shall be reviewed by the current committee and three viable options “shall be chosen for consideration.”
The reference was to the findings and recommendations of a similar committee in 2006, which failed to see the light of day as far as being considered by Council.
This proposal called for creation of a list of all existing property owned by the city with several exceptions including right-of-ways, public park areas, fire department buildings and service department buildings. The properties considered should then be appraised, the property advertised, and sold to the highest bidder starting at the appraised price. All of the money acquired would go toward the construction cost of the city building project.
His second proposal calls for rehabilitating and adding on to the existing city building and creation of employee and public parking space east of the city building. Again, it shall not exceed 53,000 square feet, and that the “Master Plan from Alexander-Seckel Architects, submitted to the City of Portsmouth in October of 1984 shall be used as a template.” The report submitted would be updated to include any and all construction price increases to today’s standards.
The remainder of the proposal was the same as the first one, and each ended with, “This proposal shall be submitted to the public for their vote by adding this proposal to the November 2012 General Election ballot as requested by the Mayor and Council President of the City of Portsmouth.”
Among the comments during the informal discussion were these, “The Police Department has to go someplace,” Bender said. “It can’t go into the Fifth/Third building.”
In a citizens group meeting last week, one of the proposals considered was asking Fifth/Third to donate its former building to the city, and for that company to buy the Adelphia property, currently owned by the city. However, one citizen reminded the members of the committee, the stipulation for ownership of the Adelphia building was that it be used for city government operations, or it will revert back to the former owner.
“I think I can speak for Sharon (Bender) that we are dedicated to doing something with our city building, providing something for the citizens of Portsmouth,” Saddler said. “I think with … everything that has been going on, it has deterred a lot of the individuals (committee members) who maybe don’t want to come out because they are afraid of being embarrassed in the community. Just speaking for myself, I have broad shoulders. I can let things hit me and roll right off. I know I’m doing something for the right reason and for the betterment of the city.”
Saddler also said the committee was too large with 10 members, and suggested it should be more like six or seven. He also cited a perceived lack of communication within the operation of the city.
“In the last month or so, with everything that has transpired, there has been a little bit of a lack of communication between the mayor and this committee,” Saddler said. “I feel that we should strive to get a stronger link of communication going — not only with the committee members, but possibly myself, since I am a Council member — if he can’t communicate with other people then he should at least communicate with me.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.