With the fate of the Blue Building hanging in the balance, McMinnville officials, an Industrial Development Board representative, and residents on S. High Street all weighed in on future plans.
Building and Grounds Committee members Ben Newman, chairman, Ken Smith and Jimmy Bonner met Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. and unanimously agreed to recommend to the full board the bid from Tri-State Development for demolishing the gymnasium and auditorium.
Tri-State Development’s bid is for $238,800 – a base bid of $228,800, salvage and stockpile 170,000 bricks for $9,500, and remove and replace shingles for $500.
The city received a second bid from Waymon Hale Construction for $268,000.
“I’m assuming we are wanting to salvage as much brick as possible,” said Newman referring to the 170,000 bricks to stockpile. “We had talked about using some of the brick for the facade of the fire station. It would be a good way to recycle.”
The city’s tentative plans for the lot include building a new fire station. Consideration has also been given to building a complex for both the Fire Department and Police Department, if the decision is not made to relocate the Police Department into the main section of the Blue Building.
After the Building and Grounds Committee meeting, the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen met at 7 p.m. Area residents encouraged the city to cease any plan to relocate emergency personnel onto the Blue Building property.
Speaking on behalf of the residents and submitting a petition to the city was Ricky Jones.
“The disruption to the residents along South High Street would be detrimental to the health and well-being of its citizens,” Jones said. “This plan is not conducive to a quiet neighborhood. We urge you to reconsider.”
Jones says increased traffic and the noises that go along with the fire department, such as 911 buzzers, PA speakers and sirens, will disrupt the quiet life residents are enjoying.
“I cannot imagine trying to sleep through the night with the commotion going on across the street,” he said. “If you have been to the fire hall, you will understand the noise I’m talking about. I have nothing against those men or our police department. I respect them, but that is a 24-hour-a-day operation and not suited for a residential area.”
He encouraged use of the property for an office.
“An office with daytime hours would be more conducive to the neighborhood,” Jones said. “We urge you to allow this property to be marketed for such. The last election indicated the taxpayers did not want their tax money spent on this building.”
No discussion was held by officials regarding the petition.
At the end of the board meeting was a plea from IDB director George Burke for the city to halt its demolition plans and allow him up to one year to market the property.
“For years, I have had a vision that the building could be utilized by McMinnville as a tool to recruit industry, service industry or some type of industry that would bring good jobs, a number of jobs to downtown McMinnville,” he said. “We are asking for six months to one year to prove that can be done.”
Burke says he is willing to put his reputation on the line.
“We have had some success in this area,” he said. “I have gained a little notoriety from that success. It’s a little fearful when you want to put that on the line and say give me a chance because there is always that chance we will fail in this. I will bear that failure, if we do. I’m willing to risk that if you give us a chance to market that building.”
Alderman Smith asked if Burke would be willing to market only the main structure.
“Since the auditorium has been basically condemned, the codes people won’t give us a year without repairs,” said Smith.
While Burke encouraged officials to allow the IDB to market the entire property, including the auditorium and gymnasium, he added, “I’ll take whatever I can get.”
No decision was made regarding Burke’s request. However, the answer may come next week. Special called meetings have been scheduled for Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. and Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. for the board to consider the bid from Tri-State Development. If the measure fails to pass on Oct. 1, it will be pulled from the Oct. 3 meeting.