The committee consists of Mayor Jim Kalb, Portsmouth City Councilman Mike Mearan and businessmen Jim Robinson, Kevin Johnson and Terry Ockerman.
City Council President Howard Baughman appointed the members and asked them to help end the city building stalemate.
They plan to present two or three site recommendations to City Council in a few months.
Robinson and Johnson said the committee's biggest accomplishment so far has been getting the process out in the open.
“My question, is when they (department heads) gave us the space they're asking for, I wanted to know why each department needed the space,” Robinson said. “No one can give me an answer, and the mayor said it took two years to come up with that space.”
Therefore, Robinson said the committee needed to meet with the department heads in public to find out about their space needs in a new building.
“My closing statement at our last meeting was that I'm going to ask this question at every meeting until you give me an answer,” he said. “My fellow voters want to know.”
Robinson said it looks like the committee is getting cooperation from the public.
“We're hearing a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “That makes me feel good. They know we're not puppets. Our recommendations are coming from the public.”
Johnson said his first concern when approached by Baughman was that the committee would not be taken seriously.
“Howard has given me a comfort level, and at this point I'd be very surprised if they brush us off,” he said. “The city can't afford to brush us off anymore. We have to deal with city hall. No ifs, ands or butts about it.”
City Council may not like the committee's recommendations, however.
“That's why we're taking our time and doing the documentation, dotting the ‘Is' and crossing the ‘Ts' and looking at what kind of financial sense this makes for the future of the city and comfort of the employees,” Johnson said.
Robinson said the committee is not trying to please everyone.
“But we're finding that a lot of money has been lost from grants the city didn't get because they didn't ask for on time,” he said. “There's bond relief they didn't ask for them on time. That money's gone and you can never get it back. So we're trying to find out what we can do without raising taxes and still get a building that our grandchildren will be proud of.”
Robinson's only regret is that the committee members cannot spend as much time on their work as they would like. That's because they all have full-time jobs.
“Unfortunately, you can't hire somebody to do this on a full-time basis,” Robinson said. “That's just the way it is. It's the nature of the beast.”
“We're devoting as much time as we can,” he said. “If we were full-time, we'd be way ahead of where we are. But we can't. We had to first understand what we wanted to do and understand what the city wanted us to do.”
Robinson said the former Marting's Department Store building and the municipal building are still possible city building sites.
On Tuesday, committee members also visited a lot on Third Street, the Sam's Kitchen property at Sixth and Washington streets and the former Adelphia Communications building on Washington Street.
JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.