The organizational meeting of the new City Hall Committee is scheduled for Monday at 4:30 p.m. in Portsmouth City Council chambers, and at least two members think it is the only way to accomplish that mission.
The committee, named by Council President Howard Baughman at the last City Council meeting, is made up of Mayor Jim Kalb, 4th Ward Councilman Mike Mearan, and three businessmen, Kevin Johnson, Jim Robinson and Terry Ockerman, and has, as its goal, to find a new city government facility.
Mearan, acting chairman, said that the specific goal is to “see what property the city owns, to see what our assets are and to attempt to create a city hall at no additional cost to taxpayers.”
Johnson said he had to cancel the first scheduled meeting because the public hadn't been properly informed of the time and date.
“We just wanted to make sure we didn't violate the open meeting law,” he said.
According to Johnson, the members of the committee are waiting for a letter from Baughman outlining the committee's guidelines. Mearan said he thinks the committee should set those guidelines itself.
“I think that is what we are going to do, to do it on our own, and to figure that out when we get there and see what we are going to talk about,” said Mearan.
Johnson said they had to make several decisions at their meetings.
“How we are going to operate, who do we want to talk with?” Johnson said.
Johnson also said that the three non-governmental citizens on the committee want to talk with City Auditor Trent Williams.
“We want him to tell us where the money is going to come from, what property does the city own, what property we don't own but is being condemned, we just want to look at all sorts of options,” he said.
Mearan mentioned the city having $1.4 million from the Marting's property and said that with the addition of the money received from any sale of city-owned property, “We should be able to do this without using additional taxpayer money.”
“I think realistically, we need to look at what our resources are, then consider our options, instead of coming up with what we think we need, then trying to find it,” he said.
Mearan said that he looked at complexes in Williamsburg, Va., and Circleville, and he likes the concept of having courtrooms together with the police.
“I think that's a good marriage. One of my constituents thought that we should build on the empty lot in Market Square, which is not a bad idea, and another said we should ask Fifth-Third Bank to donate their building,” said Mearan. “So I made a pitch as to the advantages of donating the building to the city. If they do, a lot would probably depend on what they would want in return, like a lot that the city owns, or something like that.”
Mearan said the city could utilize the Fifth-Third building by putting the mayor's office on the first floor and the city auditor downstairs.
“We don't want to rule out renovating our current location. We need structural engineers to look at it and see if that is possible, too. We need to look at all possibilities,” he said.
While the meeting will be primarily devoted to organization of the committee and guidelines, the public is invited to attend.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232