By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
At least one member of Portsmouth City Council says he does not believe the City Building Steering Committee can get its work done in time to have any proposal put on the November General Election ballot.
In an email to members of Council, and specifically a direct answer to an email from Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham, First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson said Council should allow the committee the necessary time it will need to obtain all the pertinent information necessary for their recommendations.
Basham brought up a previous suggestion by Johnson that there should be no timetable for the committee to make recommendations, saying, “Committees have been formed on this very issue since the 1980s. Thirty years of committees and we’re still dealing with the same problem,” Basham said. “Keep the timeline, keep the committee, and let’s gather facts. The 1980’s renovation proposal involved real facts and figures by professionals, not opinions. I would like to see that happen. I also think the idea floated by the ‘think tank’ group should be on the table. It would eliminate the ‘Martings elephant’, help us get rid of property we don’t use and fix our issue of needing a new building/better equipped building for city government.”
Johnson differentiated from previous committees and the current committee.
“No other committee recommendations have been forwarded to voters,” Johnson said. “All other recommendations have been, by some means, sidelined. This committee meets once per month. I do not see it being able to conclude its research, deliberations and arriving at consensus agreement within three or so months; especially given that for all practical purposes all its initial meetings have made little to no progress as regards research or deliberating alternatives.”
The group being called a “think tank,” consists of business leaders and office holders who are proposing having the Fifth/Third Bank donate its building on the Roy Rogers Esplanade to the city, then purchase what is known as the Adelphia property, currently owned by the city, for a more economical branch location; for the Marting’s Foundation to tear down the Marting’s building, also owned by the city, for the building of a parking facility; and for the city to sell the property where the current city building is located to a developer.
Johnson said he agrees with Basham that the “think tank” ideas should also be considered, but, given the complexity of negotiations that might be faced with Fifth/Third Bank and the Marting’s Foundation, the ideas being floated by that group faces extreme difficulty in ironing out details for the committee to consider by the current deadline, which was to be June or July.
Meanwhile, Portsmouth Mayor David Malone has received another letter of resignation from one of the members of the Building Steering Committee. Donnie Criner, business manager at the Pipefitters Local 577, said his job keeps him too busy to participate. Malone said he has been unable to find replacements for those committee members who have resigned. He also dealt with the suggestion that the committee be reduced from its original size of 10 members.
“As I spoke to the two committee members (Rich Saddler and Sharon Bender) at Wednesday’s scheduled meeting, I was unsuccessful in getting commitments from anyone to fill the vacate spots that occurred by resignations” Malone said. “Given that we are now at five members on the committee, maybe we can move forward and function with the present membership at this time.”
Only Saddler and Bender showed up at Wednesday’s committee meeting, meaning no business was conducted.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.