Ordinance that could lead to new city building approved
Portsmouth City Council voted 4-2 Monday to approve an ordinance that eventually could turn the former Marting's building into a new City Center housing city offices.
Passage came after the council voted 4-2 to wave second and third readings of the ordinance.
The action allows Mayor Jim Kalb to move forward with plans, costs and other pertinent information on an Advisory Building Committee's recommendation.
The council already had voted March 10 to accept the committee's recommendation to put city offices there, a justice center in the former Adelphia Communications center on Washington Street, and sell the present city building and property to a developer.
An overflow crowd of more than 75 people turned out for Monday's meeting.
Council members and city officials listened for one hour and 10 minutes, and when it was over, 11 people had spoken in favor of the concept and 11 against, according to Council Vice President David Malone.
Councilmen Bob Mollette and Richard Noel cast the negative votes on both counts. Both said they wanted remodeling of the current city building to be an option. Mollette's motion to that effect failed 4-2, with just he and Noel voting for it.
"It's going to cost money whichever way we go," Malone said. "We must be willing to make a decision, to give the mayor the opportunity to look at the costs. We own the building (Marting's). It's a strong building, a good structure."
The city would get back about $1.5 million from the Marting's Foundation from the original purchase price of $2 million if it follows through. The city also owns the Adelphia building.
Kalb said a levy to cover costs of renovation and or building would cost about 90 cents a week for a homeowner with a home valued at $50,000.
Kalb denied a rumor the city building and property would be sold to "a friend" for development.
"I'd like for someone to tell me who that is," the mayor said. "It will be advertised. Anyone and everyone would have a chance to bid."
One of those addressing council was Robert Forrey, who recently retired from Shawnee State University after 17 years as an English professor.
He is president of Concerned Citizens of Portsmouth and Scioto County. Forrey said the group will move forward with legal action to stop the city from renovating the Marting's building for city offices.
He reminded the council citizens voted more than 2-1 against such use of the Marting's building when it was on the ballot in May 2006.
"That vote still stands," said Dee Penix, a speaker opposed to the plan.
Another speaker, Jerry O'Bannon, said he voted against the plan that first time, but would be forced to change his vote now.
"We've got new people, new circumstances," he said. "I love Portsmouth, and I want to see downtown prosper. I grew up here. Chillicothe Street used to look like the midway at the fair. We won't see that again, but where there's no vision, the people perish."
"We've got new people and new ideas, and we've got to move on," WNXT disc jockey Steve Hayes said.
Linda Switzer, a retired school teacher, said the people of Portsmouth are poor and can't stand any more taxes in any form.
She suggested "fixing up" the current city building.
Delynn Coppoletti, co-chairwoman of Main Street Economic Restructuring Committee, presented council with 300 signatures on petitions calling for use of the Marting's building not only for city offices, but for a location on the main floor of the City Center with various mall services.
Mike Malone, brother to councilman Malone, urged the council to "do what you were elected to do. You can't please everyone."
Council President Howard Baughman said."I pay taxes here. I work downtown. I want my granddaughter to be able to live here when she grows up."
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.