Architect pulls out from new city hall negotiations (copy)

Historic Bisbee City Hall was gutted in a devastating fire on Oct. 11, 2017. The mayor and city council deadlocked on a vote Tuesday which would have allowed proposals to determine the cost of demolishing the building.

BISBEE — A vote to post a request for proposals for the demolition of the fire–ravaged shell of the former Bisbee City Hall ended in a tie Tuesday night, which again delayed movement on construction of new housing for the city government.

Councilmen Bill Higgins and Louis Pawlik and Mayor David Smith voted in favor of issuing the RFP. Councilwomen Anna Cline, Joan Hansen and Joni Giacomino voted against it. Councilwoman Leslie Johns was unable to attend the meeting.

With a tie vote, the measure was defeated.

Public Works director Jesus Haro said, “We need to do something with what is left of the building there.”

He noted a bid had been submitted for demolition, but it expired. In order for the mayor and council to know how much it will cost to remove the side walls and front of the building, an RFP would need to be posted to move forward.

Hansen and Giacomino represent the Warren District, where the old city hall is located, and said many of their constituents were against tearing down the remaining concrete walls.

Giacomino said, “I have people in my ward requesting it be delayed. It may be the second oldest building in Warren. Demolishing it will take away part of Bisbee’s history and will leave a big, vacant lot.”

People think grant money could be found to save the exterior by “shoring up walls and using it as a farmers market or something else if we choose not use the space for city hall,” she continued. “Demolishing it is not a popular choice for many people, and that includes myself.”

Haro explained the intent was just to get a cost fix on demolition. It did not mean the shell would be torn down. The proposal would need to be approved by the mayor and council and they could decide what to do at that time.

Smith said State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had visited the site shortly after the fire and he was told there were no financial opportunities for the building restoration.

“It’s a poured concrete structure and concrete doesn’t do well in a thermal environment,” added Smith.

Pawlik said, “I am sympathetic to the people who contacted me and want to preserve the historic structure.”

He agreed with proceeding to find out the cost of “tearing down the dangerous structure because we don’t have the money to secure it.”

Hansen also received calls from concerned citizens upset with demolition. Though she understood Haro’s recommendation, she wants to see the proposal delayed until the city gets another RFP for city hall construction on that spot. She pointed out architect Al Hopper wanted to use the existing portico of the building.

Haro again noted any contract would have to come back before council for approval.

Cline agreed with Hansen and said, “I don’t want us to take any action on this right now.”

Cline wants City Manager Theresa Coleman to look for historical grants to help fund the rebuilding of city hall.

Coleman pointed out in the bid received from Hopper that demolition was set at $180,000. That sum may be too high, but the city will not know until it gets new bids for the project.

“This is not a decision to demolish anything. It just gives us a cost,” Coleman explained.

Higgins emphasized the last engineering report stated the remaining concrete walls, including the portal, were compromised in the fire.

“I feel like we’ve just been spinning our wheels and we need to move forward on this,” he said. “This is just asking people how much it’s going to cost to tear it down.“

On a different matter, Haro told the council some bulbs had burned out on Highway 80 and APS called the city and said the city was responsible for the streetlights at the Lavender Pit. Three bulbs need replacement and 14 others need maintenance. The cost would range from $4,613 to $15,079 depending on how many existing lights and support arms the city wants to replace.

Members of the council asked why the city would pay for lights along a state-owned stretch of highway.

Higgins said he did not think the lighting was necessary as there are unlighted areas along Highway 80.

The council requested more information on how the city became involved in lighting the roadway.

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