05/03/11 — City Council rejects deal for building

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City Council rejects deal for building

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 3, 2011 1:46 PM

The city's inclination to purchase the building that currently houses the Arts Council of Wayne County at 2406 E. Ash St. will be put on hold after the City Council voted last night to cancel its current contract with the Arts Council and to begin discussions to negotiate a new agreement.

Interim City Manager Tasha Logan said issues discussed at the April 18 council meeting concerning windows would be addressed through repairs and renovations to the building, but the high costs associated with those repairs appeared to undo the agreement the city entered into with the Arts Council in February. City officials signed a contract, which included a clause that permitted the city to reneg for any reason during the inspection process.

Engineer Jerry Hodge, whom the city hired to perform a structural analysis of the building, said in his preliminary report that the building's dimensions and ceiling put stress on second floor windows, which increased the likelihood of the windows cracking when temperatures fluctuate.

"There were no major problems that were found with the building," Ms. Logan said. "We would fix the windows. We would change the type of window and frame and add a UV coating to the windows. All of that would be put in to help replace the windows.

Ms. Logan added that the costs for the renovations would be less than what the city would spend to build a new building. According to Hodge's report, renovations to the building, including replacing the plaster ceiling, roof, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and windows, would cost $1.4 million along with the building purchase price of $600,000. That would mean the city would spend $2 million to prepare the building to house its proposed Air Force Museum. The city has said it is banking on cooperation from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to help fund exhibits and on volunteer work from Air Force veterans to help staff the museum.

The council members initially had no questions for Hodge until District 6 Councilman Jackie Warrick began questioning the costs to bring in exhibits. Ms. Logan said the city would likely relocate the plane outside the police and fire complex to the museum, but Warrick wanted to know specifics about actually suspending airplanes from the ceiling.

Hodge said modifications would be required for the ceiling to hold a 1,200-pound replica and that to support an actual plane, as Warrick suggested, a substantial amount of restructuring involving steel beams would be required. Warrick asked for a price estimation from Hodge, which the engineer said he couldn't provide without more research since the plaster ceilings made it difficult and there was little known about what type of weight the structure would need to hold.

"At this time, there's no way to determine the exact price," Mayor Al King said. "There's a lot we don't know at this point."

District 1 Councilman Michael Headen concurred.

"There's a lot of uncertainty here," he said.

During the discussion between Ms. Logan, Hodge and Warrick, Mayor Pro-tem Chuck Allen suggested the council move into closed session for further discussion on the matter. The motion was passed and after a little more than 10 minutes of deliberation, the council opened its doors again to announce its decision to cancel the contract with the Arts Council and to renegotiate.

"I think the cost of the windows were a lot more than we had ever anticipated they were so we just felt like that was a reason or opportunity to renegotiate the contract," Allen said after the work session.

He said City Attorney Jim Womble and Ms. Logan had been charged with meeting with the Arts Council to come up with a new agreement.