Tomahawk – safe for now

Published 6:24 pm Saturday, May 16, 2009

AHOSKIE – The old Tomahawk Restaurant will live to see another day…or at least another month.

One day shy of beginning condemnation procedures on one of Ahoskie’s historic landmarks, town council members on Tuesday granted property owner Mohammad Abid a one-month extension to show he is making some sort of progress on renovating the structure.

Following a 25-minute debate on the issue, council members approved a suggestion made by attorney Larry Overton, the town’s legal counsel, to delay the condemnation procedure and have Abid draw-up a legally-binding contract detailing the work he will have performed on the building. Additionally, that contract must be presented to the town council for review at their next scheduled meeting, set for June 9.

Council began discussing the issue of the deteriorating restaurant (no longer in use) in July of last year. The major issue in the council’s eyes was that the building was situated on the town’s main thoroughfare (US 13/Academy Street) and was an eyesore.

Ahoskie officials have been in contact with Abid since that time, urging him to make an effort to at least make cosmetic improvements to the building’s exterior. Meanwhile, the building had been deemed unsafe and that its deteriorating conditions constituted a public nuisance.

At their April meeting, council members learned that repeated efforts by the town to contact Abid had failed. It was at that meeting where council voted to begin the condemnation procedure during a hearing scheduled for this week (May 13).

Abid was at Tuesday’s (May 12) council meeting. There, he informed council that he had been living and working back-and-forth between Ahoskie and Virginia and was unaware of efforts being made to contact him.

“I knew nothing about this (condemnation procedure) until a friend of mine called and said he saw it in the newspaper (Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald: Thursday, April 9 – “Ahoskie landmark may come tumbling down),” Abid said.

Abid said he was working on the building’s interior in an effort to locate his Direct TV business.

Councilman Ronald Gatling asked about a timeline for the renovations. Abid answered that he hoped to have a rear portion of the building finished next month, but it may take until the end of the year before the roof on the entire structure can be replaced. He blamed that on “slow contractors.”

Ahoskie Building Inspector Keith Truman told council members that much work has been done on the building’s interior.

“The roof right now is the biggest issue, but the building’s walls and floors are in good condition,” Truman said, adding that the structure was “salvageable.”

On the other side of the issue was the condemnation procedure, one where the wheels were already turning. Truman reminded council they have the authority to condemn the building and have it demolished.

“If we condemn it and have it torn down, it will cost the town about $30,000 up front,” said Town Manager Tony Hammond. “I would rather see some renovation progress on the building. There is some simple cosmetic work that can be done on the exterior to make it look more attractive.”

Councilman Malcolm Copeland, along with Gatling, wanted to know what type of timeline Abid was looking at to make these improvements.

“He’s been under a timeline; what you need is a legal contract that details what will be done…how progress will be made,” said Attorney Overton.

With that, Gatling made the motion for Abid to have a contract drawn detailing the impending renovations. That motion passed without objection.