McMinnville officials have voted to send the Blue Building on the same route as the Park Theatre. A referendum on November’s presidential ballot will allow city voters to help decide the building’s fate.
The measure passed the board with a vote of 3-2. Voting in favor were Mayor Norman Rone, Vice Mayor Everett Brock and Alderman Billy Wood, with Aldermen Rick Barnes and Jimmy Haley voting against it. Clair Cochran was absent.
“I think sending it to referendum gives residents a chance to let us know how they feel about renovating the Blue Building,” said Rone. “It’s a lot of money and I, for one, think they should be allowed a voice in the decision.”
Haley says he voted against the measure after what appeared to be more closed-door decision making by some members of the board. Haley says he is not against allowing residents to have a voice in the decision.
“I just didn’t like the way this was done,” Haley said. “Once again, like with Park Theatre, here is a resolution already drawn up without any discussion on sending it to referendum. There must have been some discussion, but it wasn’t in an open meeting and I wasn’t included. Something about this isn’t kosher, but what do I know.”
An appraisal of the building in June 2008 set the cost of renovating the entire building at nearly $6 million — $3.4 million for the main building including the wings on either side, $500,000 for the auditorium, and $1.8 million for the gymnasium.
The city hasn’t determined the exact wording of how the referendum will appear on the ballot, but it will pertain to using taxpayer dollars to renovate the Blue Building.
However, the referendum will give city officials a firm idea of how their constituents feel.
Prior to the decision to place the Blue Building question on the ballot as a referendum, there was a failed attempt by city Building and Grounds Committee members in June to have the property declared surplus and auctioned to the highest bidder. While it was accepted in committee, the measure was pulled from the agenda when it was presented to the full board for its consideration in July.
Being a resolution, the measure to send the Blue Building to referendum only needs one pass before the board.