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City approves demolition
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McMinnville officials are moving forward with demolition of the Blue Building’s auditorium and gymnasium. Thursday night’s vote fell on the side of removal.
The measure to level the two structures passed Tuesday night on first read, then was finalized Thursday night on second read.
On Tuesday, the measure passed 4-2. Vice Mayor Ben Newman and Aldermen Ken Smith, Jimmy Bonner and Rick Barnes voted in favor of demolishing the structures, while Mayor Jimmy Haley and Alderman Billy Wood voted against it. Alderman Mike Neal was absent.
On Thursday, the measure passed 3-2. Smith, Bonner and Barnes voted in favor of it, while Haley and Wood voted against it. Newman and Neal were absent.
Ordinance number 1682 was to accept the base bid from Tri-State Development of $228,800 plus $9,500 for salvage and stockpile of 170,000 bricks and $500 to remove and replace shingles — a total cost of $238,800.
In accepting the bid from Tri-State, officials rejected a request from Industrial Development Board director George Burke to allow him a chance to save the entire building.
Burke asked officials to allow the IDB to market the building for one year in an effort to attract a suitable buyer that would restore the entire building.
“My vision was that all over America there are public nonprofit organizations that would love to be in a beautiful old building like the Blue Building, where the overhead could be kept low by the low cost of their headquarters, and their employees could operate on a reduced income because of McMinnville’s low cost of living,” said Burke. “This would enable them to put more of their charitable contributions into their mission and not into overhead.”
Haley voted against demolition because of his background in historic preservation, and Wood wanted to give the IDB a chance.
“Give those guys a chance,” said Wood. “If they can do what they say, that’s great. The building will be renovated without money from taxpayers. Jobs will be created and the property will go back on the tax rolls. Give them a year to try. If they can’t do it, then we can move forward.”
Smith says he is in favor of a compromise with IDB.
“I’m fully in favor of allowing George and the IDB to market the main structure,” Smith said. “I’m not in favor of giving the entire six acres to the IDB. There is land there that can be used for other city endeavors. I think it’s a reasonable compromise.”
Plans under consideration for the land are to build stations for the city’s police and fire departments.