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Extensive Blue Building study put on hold
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McMinnville officials are holding off on going out for bids for an in-depth structural evaluation of the Blue Building. A meeting to establish exactly how extensive the study will be put the measure on ice for now.
Building and Grounds Committee members Ben Newman, Rick Barnes and Ken Smith met Tuesday night to consider the scope of work engineering firms will use to generate the project’s cost in submitting a bid for Blue Building restoration.
The current proposal states, “The basic scope of the assessment and evaluation will include visual observation and destructive testing of exterior and interior walls, foundations of all structures, stability of all floors, and roof framing and roof covering of all buildings” and “assessment and evaluation of potential environmental hazards, including but not limited to, asbestos, mold in the basement area of the original structure, and bird and bat droppings throughout all buildings.”
 Peter Metts of AEI Architects and Engineers out of Cookeville recently did a walk through of the building with a structural engineer and an environmental engineer. Mayor Jimmy Haley says the word he is getting back is this extensive study may not be needed.
“It was their opinion the building is in fairly good shape,” Haley said. “The need for a full structural analysis of the building might not necessarily be what we want. They can do an analysis that is a little less costly, depending on what the board wants to do.”
A full study of the building could cost in excess of $12,000, depending on the scope of the work. Because the cost is estimated to be over $10,000, the city must go out for bids on the survey.
In attendance at the meeting was Mary Johnson an architect from MBI Michael Brady Inc. out of Knoxville, who was asked to give her thoughts on the different scopes of work the city should consider.
“A structural analysis could be anything from observation looking for areas of concern that you can do more testing on, to a real comprehensive test of the whole building, which would be very, very expensive to do and probably more than you have in your request right now,” said Johnson.
Unlike AEI, Johnson has not been through the building, but she did have a chance to look around the outside of the building.
“As you all know, some parts of the building are in better shape than others,” said Johnson. “Some areas are more historically significant, possibly, and more useable. I think it is wise that you have the environmental and structural together. That way, you can coordinate the effort. If there is any destructive testing needed, that will be all in one.”
Destructive testing means disturbing parts of the building to determine the overall soundness, such as removing drywall to examine beams or removing a sample of material for further testing.
Johnson suggested listing specific tasks that will need to be done rather than leaving companies to determine for themselves what needs to be done.
Dan Sherfy of AEI says some issues were clearly visible such as the auditorium walls and its floor, but an intensive analysis would only be needed depending on future use.
 “I don’t think you would need a total analysis of the building, unless you are going to turn it into a banquet hall or an essential facility, such as an EMS facility or something like that,” Sherfy said.
Officials have considered turning the building into a multi-use facility to house McMinnville Police Department, McMinnville Fire Department and a welcome center.
Ken Smith suggested each firm be made aware of what the future use of the building might be prior to inspection so a recommendation can be given as to the feasibility of renovating for that use.
“We need a report that recommends that it would be better to renovate the entire thing or we take off parts of it,” said Smith. “The main thing that people I’ve talked to about it is to keep the center structure. If we have to demolish the rest of the building and keep the center structure, then we look at building a new building with the same type of architecture.
McMinnville residents voted against renovating the Blue Building to the tune of $6 million in November. Smith says officials should look to the public for approval once new information is known.
“We are going to have to go to the people to persuade them on this,” he said. “Obviously, they have already turned it down once. There was no real effort to promote it.”
Newman suggested the discussion be tabled until the scope of work can be more clearly set and a new request for proposals generated.