Following more than two hours of discussion Tuesday afternoon, Marietta's City Council authorized a contract with General Restoration of Columbus for the first phase of renovations on the city's 98-year-old National Guard Armory building.
The initial phase includes installation of new windows and doors at a cost of $173,600.
"The windows and doors project has already been paid for with $225,500 that council put in place from the Gutberlet armory trust fund," city engineer Joe Tucker said during Tuesday's special council session.
"If we receive no grant money, we can still have the windows and doors done," he said in response to some council members' concerns that a reconfigured Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant might not be approved for the project.
That grant, obtained a couple of years ago through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was originally authorized for more than $400,000.
But after several extensions of the grant's deadline, city officials decided to request a modification of the grant, reducing the requested amount to $186,726 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development office in Columbus.
Marietta City Council's streets and transportation committee meets at 4 p.m. today in the second floor conference room at 304 Putnam St. All council and committee meetings, except executive sessions, are open to the public.
City development director Andy Coleman said the energy efficiency grant would have to be re-scored by HUD.
He added that the city would not know whether the funding would be approved until after construction on the windows and doors phase is already under way.
But Tucker assured the council members that the appropriated Gutberlet monies would cover that portion of the project.
Council also approved, with some reservations, advertisement for bids on the second phase of the project that would include structural and roof repairs as well as the installation of an elevator.
"This would allow us to go out to advertise for bids for the second phase at a cost of $750, and it would help keep the armory project alive," said Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large and chairman of the lands, buildings and parks committee.
Noland urged his fellow councilmen to authorize the legislation.
Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, agreed.
"The only thing we're talking about with this legislation is the money to advertise for bids-we're not authorizing a contract," he said.
But Councilmen Denver Abicht, D-at large, and Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, expressed concerns that money from the city's annual Community Development Block Grant could be impacted if other grant monies failed to come through for the second phase of the project.
Both said CDBG monies should be used to improve city streets and not to restore the armory building.
"I'm a veteran and I'm not in favor of tearing the armory down, but streets are more important to people," Abicht said.
Thomas added that one of his constituents, also a veteran, has difficulty getting his wife to the hospital due to the deterioration of the street on which he lives.
Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, encouraged his fellow council members to support the legislation to advertise for bids.
"I think putting this out for bids is a good thing that will provide us information about the cost of the second phase," he said. "But I may not vote to enter into a contract if that will put city funds in jeopardy."
The measure passed 5-1, with Abicht casting the only dissenting vote.
Prior to the vote, Marietta resident Bill McElfresh suggested council take the armory issue to the public and present a long-range plan for operation of the facility.
"I would like to see our city officials go back to the citizens and say this is where we are and what it will cost," he said.
McElfresh noted that in 2003 the city's Development Advisory Board, of which he was a member, had listed the development of a viable business plan for the armory project among the city's top 10 priorities.