Council Continues Support for Shell Building

BLYTHEWOOD (Nov. 19, 2015) – A shell building that Town Council hopes to construct and sell for a profit is picking up steam with three members of Council, Mayor J. Michael Ross, Tom Utroska and Bob Mangone, nodding in support of the project at a Town Council workshop on Tuesday. The project does not have to be voted on until the building is sold. Councilman Eddie Baughman was absent and the fifth seat remains empty until the newly elected Council members are sworn in Nov. 30.

Since last summer, Ed Parler, the Town’s Economic Development consultant, has urged Council to construct the shell building on the Town Park grounds with what’s left of two grants totaling $456,881 awarded to the Town five years ago by Fairfield Electric Cooperative to construct a high end restaurant in the same location. Parler said if the Town doesn’t spend the grant on an economic development project in a designated business park owned by the Town, the money will have to be refunded with interest to the Cooperative. The spec building would occupy about an acre of the 2 acres across from the front of Town Hall that were designated for the business park when John Perry was Town Administrator.

“If we turn the grant money back to Fairfield Electric,” Utroska pointed out, “then we’re going to be on the hook for the interest and penalties, which could come to more than $100,000.”

Of the original $456,881 grant, only $342,490 remains, Parler said. He estimated the proposed shell will cost $429,581 to construct. To make up the difference, Parler said the Town will have to kick in $105,991 – $18,900 for architectural and engineering fees and a shortfall of $87,091.

“It is my belief that we will not only recover the $105,991, but that we will be looking at a surplus from the sale of $100,000 plus,” Parler said.

Council has contracted with E. Ralph Walden and Associates for architectural plans which, Parler said, should be completed in early December.

“At that point we will have the plans reviewed by the Board of Architectural Review and bids will be solicited by mid-January,” Parler said.

Last summer he told Council he anticipated awarding the construction contract at the November Town Council meeting, but those plans are running behind by a couple of months pushing the expected award of the construction bid back to Feb. 1. Parler said he also expects to issue a Request for Proposals for sale of the building by early February as well. He said he expects the Town will be awarding a purchase contract on the building by the end of February and, thus, closing out the grant.

“We should have occupancy of the building by mid-May 2016,” Parler told Council.

“I think we still need to have a conversation about whether we’re going to sell or lease the property,” Utroska said. “The premise is that we’re going to sell it, but we need to come to some agreement about this.”

Instead of selling the building through traditional real estate advertising, Parler said the Town will issue an RFP.

“This will give us some latitude in being able to choosing the purchaser we think is right for the location, Parler said. But he said the Town would not enjoy such protection with subsequent purchasers of the property when the Town was not involved in the sale.

Parler emphasized that the shell building will not be of the quality that the previously proposed restaurant would have been.

“We will use an exterior HardiePlank system and common wood framing,” he said. “Decks and railings will be No. 1 treated lumber, with limited outdoor seating. Windows and doors will be standard design and quality.”

The walk-in cooler/freezer, if provided by an end user, will sit outside the building alongside the rear. The ‘box,’ Parler told the Council last summer, will be painted to match the building color.

Parler said that because the building will be built on a raised floor system instead of a slab as was planned for the restaurant, the stockpile of dirt that was dumped on the premises two years ago will no longer be needed and he invited anyone who would like to pick up all or part of it at no charge to contact the Town Hall at 754-0501.