Salem Council takes action to speed up Civic Center rebuild
Determined to build a new Civic Center by the Fulton County Fair in July, the Salem City Council took emergency action on Thursday, March 27, to speed up the process to get construction underway.
"I think everyone is aware we did have to retain the services of an architect to do this project because of the dollar amount that is going to be involved," Mayor Gary Clayton told the council. "One thing we need to do tonight is pass a resolution to exempt us from the bidding process."
The roof of the Civic Center building, which has also been known as the Theater Building, collapsed on Dec. 13, from the weight of ice and snow that collected on the roof after the first storm of the winter. Because of the damage caused by the collapse, the building was declared a total loss. After working with insurance adjusters and seeking assistance from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, work crews from the Calico Rock state prison cleared the building of furnishings and equipment that could be salvaged and the building was demolished.
Emergency bidding procedures approved
While city government is anxious to move ahead with construction on a new building, it is still awaiting FEMA's decision on what type of funding it will provide to assist with the project. It appears the project will cost around $500,000. North Arkansas Electric has expressed a willingness to help build an improved Civic Center, so that it can continue holding its annual meeting and other events at the fairgrounds.
With an architect working on final drawings for the project, the city wants to be able to move quickly to seek bids and get work underway. "There is a state law that allows you to bypass the bidding process in a natural disaster. I'd say it would save us a month [of construction delays]. We're going to give anyone who wants to bid an opportunity to do so. Any of you who know any contractors let them know, they have to be a state licensed contractor. Get their name and we're going to make contact with them. We've had several contractors in Mountain Home interested in the project.
As requested, the council approved a resolution, "Declaring an emergency and authorizing the mayor to use emergency contracting procedures [as allowed under state law]." The resolution will mean that the city will not have to advertise for bids and wait a period of time before seeking bids.
Jeffrey Jackson, who was present representing the architect, said he had completed drawings for the project and his superiors are going over them. He will then make any corrections to the plan and the city will be able to set a date for bids to be submitted and bid packets can be distributed to interested contractors. The architect will oversee the bid opening process to make sure that bids are in compliance with construction specifications and bonding requirements.
"We're rolling right along now, I think," Clayton said. "Everything is kind of beginning to come together. One thing we are waiting on is the financial [determination] from FEMA, we don't know what it is going to look like yet.
New site chosen
After the Civic Center collapse, city and fairgrounds officials discussed rebuilding on a new site, closer to the exhibit and livestock buildings. It was revealed at the council meeting that the site for the new building has been moved to the southwest corner of the property, near where the carnival usually sets up at the fair. It was decided that a site to the east of the Miller-Higginbotham exhibit building would take too much fill and extra work to prepare it for construction.
Can a new and improved Civic Center be ready by the July 28 run of the county fair? "Yes, that is what we are shooting for," the Mayor said. "I think we can get the dirt work done, then once a contractor is chosen, they can be doing the floor and that kind of thing while they are waiting for the building." It is expected to take up to six weeks to order and receive the steel building that will be constructed.
Besides work to get a building plan and bid out work, Fairgrounds Manager Carolyn Lewis is planning a fundraiser to help the city obtain funds that may be needed to match grants.
Civic Center fundraiser
"We're going to do a barbeque on Monday, April 28," Lewis reported. "The Chamber of Commerce and North Arkansas Electric are going to sell carry-out lunches that day, and that night we'll have a dinner and auction. We're trying to get all the food donated. Senator Missy Irvin is doing the meat, Rep. Scott Baltz is doing the desserts and the Beta Sigma Phi chapter is doing the cole slaw. We still have to get [donations for] buns, baked beans and utensils and things." According to Lewis, donated items are being sought for the auction, and baked goods will also be auctioned.
Lewis told the architect that she needs documentation showing what it will cost to construct restroom facilities that will allow use by the disabled. The old Civic Center did not meet federal ADA guidelines requiring restrooms and other facilities be handicapped accessible. According to Lewis, FEMA will pay the additional costs involved in meeting ADA requirements.
In other business, the council was told the city needs to advertise for a pool manager this summer, and hire one at the April meeting. Public Works Director Bill Worsham said that his workers had pumped out the pool last week, and would soon begin work to prepare the pool to open Memorial Day weekend.
Salem Fire Chief Nick Blanton said that his department badly needed to purchase new bunker gear, protective gear that firefighters wear when responding to fires. "All our firemen are starting to go to school again, and I had some go to Midway a couple of weeks ago. The instructor almost sent them back because of our bunker gear. He said it is looking pretty ragged."
According to Blanton, bunker gear has a ten year life, and Salem's gear should have been replaced two years ago, to comply with safety requirements. "We're needing 17 sets, which will cost roughly $30,000. It has gone up $4,000 in the past three months. Blanton said he has had difficultly obtaining grants to cover the cost, and has four grant requests out now.
Mayor Clayton expressed reluctance to spend general fund money for the gear because, "The general fund balance is not looking as good as it needs to be at this point in the [fiscal] year." The mayor suggested that the city needs to look into budget cuts to fund purchase of the gear.
The city has announced that applications are available at city hall for the Summer Sewer Rate Program, which lowers rates for residential sewer customers who use extra water watering gardens and lawns during the summer. Residents who want to take advantage of the summer sewer rate need to fill out a short application at city hall before May 20.
The next scheduled city council meeting will take place on Thursday, April 24, at 7 p.m. in the city hall conference room. The public is invited to attend.