Council tables lease agreement with museum again

By Patrick Keck -

PORTSMOUTH — A local museum group will have to wait at least two more weeks for a lease agreement following a Portsmouth City Council vote Monday evening.

The first of seven legislation items discussed, the council decided to again table the measure which would have struck a deal between the city and the Scioto County Heritage Museum.

Addressing council in the first meeting open to public attendance in more than a year, SCHM Treasurer Sharon Bender detailed the museum’s restorative progress at its 733 Fifth St. location- home of the former Marting’s building.

“It was in deplorable condition, it’s still not the best, but we have managed through grants, begging, and getting some nice donations from people,” she said at the session taking place at the Shawnee State University ballroom.

Through her estimation, $12,000 has already gone into the work of installing a new furnace. When the money is there, a process slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic Bender said, air conditioning could be equipped to that furnace.

She also said, as SCHM President and local author John McHenry previously told the PortsmouthDailyTimes, the museum would like to deck out the awning with lights in the fashion of the Hurth Apartments on Chillicothe Street.

“We have a lot of plans, but we can’t do anything until we get this lease,” Bender said. “We can’t afford to put any more into it without a little more stability.”

During the April 12 session, Mayor Kevin Johnson suggested tabling the item on the third reading as the council had just received the lease and needed more time to review the specifics. Council supported that motion in a 6-0 vote.

Now with two weeks passed, Johnson spoke on what he liked and disliked about the lease. Addressing City Solicitor John Haas, the mayor spoke on the portion of the agreement referring to “early termination upon sale of the property.”

According to the lease which he read from, fixtures to the property such as heating and air units, electrical equipment, signage, among others “shall remain property of the museum and may be removed upon termination of this lease.”

Johnson’s particular issue with this portion would be the potential removal of ceiling tiles if SCHM installed them during their work on the building.

“It just leaves a lot of openness there that someone can start detaching things and taking with them,” he said. “I understand if you invested in a HVACU (heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit) and wanting to take it with you, but shouldn’t there be something where they should have to repair any holes that are left from tearing this out?”

Among other points, Johnson did not support the museum making alterations without approval from the city, who owns the building, and any disputes to be resolved in State of Ohio courtrooms instead of the city solicitor.

“Faces and names can change between now and 20 years from now,” he said. “And at times, believe it or not, hard feelings can even develop. I would hate for something to happen here.”

Johnson joined in with 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon in expressing support for the museum. As the Southern Ohio Museum Artistic Director, she wanted to let the public know where she stands.

“I think having another cultural institution is very beneficial to our city,” Gordon said, bringing the Portsmouth total to five museums by her calculation. “This is an asset to our community and a very positive reason for people to come and visit.”

1st Ward councilperson Sean Dunne added that the people behind SCHM, like the Portsmouth Street Art Project, showed a good deal of activism and pride.

“It’s great to see people in our community taking on these tasks,” he said. “I would say to others that are trying to improve the area that we as a council are very willing to work with you.”

Council voted 6-0 to table the measure again to allow Haas to speak with McHenry, the goal of which creating a lease more favorable for both parties. The item will remain in third reading for the council’s next scheduled meeting May 10.

By Patrick Keck

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.