On Monday, a committee comprised of Portsmouth City Councilman Mike Mearan, Mayor Jim Kalb, and businessmen Kevin Johnson, Terry Ockerman and Jim Robinson met for the first time before the regular City Council meeting.
The committee plans to meet every Monday at 4:30 p.m. in the municipal building for the rest of the year and try to find options on where and how to build the building.
City Council President Howard Baughman appointed the committee earlier this month.
“Hopefully, we'll kick around some ideas,” committee chairman Mearan said. “Our goal is to look at the city assets and make recommendations for where the city building and police station will go.”
The committee will report to City Council, which ultimately will decide on the city building issue. But Baughman said the committee has no restrictions placed on it.
“You can look at anything, although I would appreciate that you don't look at my belt size,” he said at the City Council meeting. “It doesn't make sense to have a lengthy list of what the committee can and can't do. Nothing is closed and there are no secrets.”
Mearan said the committee will try to find a building option that includes little or no taxpayer money.
Robinson said the committee members also must consider what to do with the former Adelphia Communications building on Washington Street. Its former owner, a California doctor, donated the building to the city about two years ago. City officials have said it would cost about $1 million to renovate it for use as a police station.
“We're not here to be scapegoats for anybody,” Robinson said. “We're here to see that taxpayers' money is handled properly. It's time to quit playing games.”
Robinson wanted to see a plan for a new building. But Kalb said the city must first decide on whether it wants to renovate an existing building or build new before devising a plan.
He said renovating the former Marting's Department Store building makes the most sense financially.
The city must come up with a plan for the former Marting's building before March 2008 or the Richard D. Marting Foundation will not return $1.4 million of the nearly $2 million purchase price. Kalb signed a contract with the foundation in 2004 agreeing to those terms.
Robinson said the age of a building must be taken into consideration when thinking about moving into it.
“Why bring you out of an ancient, dinosaur building and put you into another ancient, dinosaur building?” he said.
According to Kalb, both the former Adelphia and Marting's annex buildings need roof replacements. He said the city fixed the leaking roof on the main Marting's building. In May, voters forbade renovations to the Marting's building.
The city also is considering renovating the current municipal building, Mearan said.
Johnson said the committee must form subcommittees and meet with staff from the auditor and engineering departments.