‘Eyesore’ needs facelift

Published 6:21 pm Sunday, February 16, 2014

The downtown building at 123 & 125 W. Main Street is in need of repair. The town of Ahoskie has already placed barriers in front of the building for the purpose of safety to persons and property. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

The downtown building at 123 & 125 W. Main Street is in need of repair. The town of Ahoskie has already placed barriers in front of the building for the purpose of safety to persons and property. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

AHOSKIE – A downtown building sorely in need of repair may finally be getting fixed, with a little help from the town.

Alverta Bonds, who owns the building at 123 and 125 West Main Street in Ahoskie, received a condemnation notice from the town’s Inspections Department two weeks ago.

Because of continuing deterioration, the town has placed barriers on the sidewalk in front of the building to prevent possible injury to persons or property in the possible event of the building’s collapse.

Bonds later met with Town Inspector Keith Truman and informed him that rather than see the building demolished she has enlisted a contractor, David Mitchell, to make repairs to the dilapidated structure. Among the improvements the contractor proposes are re-painting the masonry wall, pouring a concrete reinforcement footing, repairing all joints, and tearing out the front wall, or façade, of the building.

This week, Bonds made a request to the town a for a façade grant of a maximum of $5,000 to assist toward the total repair cost for the building improvements. She presented her grant request before the Ahoskie Town Council at their Feb. 11 meeting.

Truman told council that the façade is just a portion of the repairs the building badly needs.

“Her intentions now are to fix the front and fix the roof leak and start putting the inside back,” said Truman.

Truman admitted his recommendation was to demolish the building, but that the owner objected to that because of the money invested in the property, opting instead to make the repairs and get the building back in service.

After a meeting with the contractor, Truman said he was comfortable with the proposed repairs, despite what he felt would be considerable cost to the owner.

Town Manager Tony Hammond, in presenting the façade grant proposal to council, solicited tying the proposal into other necessary repairs to the building.

“If she doesn’t repair that within a set amount of time that you (Inspections Dept.) can establish then we can make her repay the grant money,” Hammond proposed.

“We’ve never had to do this before because we’ve never attempted to do a project like this,” he added. “But you can set those parameters if you choose to as Council and put those in the contract.  If she were to get it (the grant), then she would have to agree to those particular steps.”

Most of Council’s questioning and debate on the proposal centered on complete repair of the building within a set amount of time.

“What we’re saying is we would’ve liked to have seen something done inside to preserve the building to make it useful before we spent money to make the outside look (better),” Councilwoman Elaine Myers said.

Myers did admit the outside upgrades would make the building more attractive and eliminate some safety concerns.

When demolition was broached again by Councilman Maurice Vann, Council was informed that option carried quite a lot of expense.

“It’s not the demolition that’s expensive, it’s hauling the concrete and brick off and dumping it somewhere,” said Hammond. “And the only place to dump it would be (the landfill in) Bertie County.”

Businessman Quinton Turman, who was present at the meeting as a member of the Ahoskie Historic Preservation Commission, inquired about the historic significance of preserving the building as did Amy Braswell, also present, new Executive Vice President of the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce.

“This has not been presented to them as a project,” said Hammond. “And I don’t think that council has set in motion a requirement that all these proposals have to go back to the Historical Commission.”

As the discussion among Council continued, Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse made a motion to ask the Historic Commission to make a recommendation before council approves Bonds’ façade request.

Truman cautioned that what action Council proposed should be executed quickly because of the threat of collapse.

“That building might stay there for another five years or it might fall out on the sidewalk next week,” said Truman. “She (Bonds) does have a contractor lined up to do the work, and he can start within the next two or three weeks.”

There was more discussion before voting on the motion concerning fixing the building to historical standards at the cost Bonds feels it would take.

“We (the Council) have gone beyond the Historical Commission,” Councilman Charles Freeman said. “Perhaps that’s where it should have been challenged initially, but it’s on our table now.”

Hammond made clear to Council that the façade grant establishes what is eligible and that it pretty much covers everything on the outside of the building.

“It covers the front of the building, signs, roofs, windows, doors, just about everything on the outside of the building,” he said. “We’ve never (faced) a major structural repair like this. Most of our façade requests have been for awnings, windows, and things like that.”

Turman said the regular meeting of the Historic Commission would be March 27. When Freeman asked if they could hold an emergency meeting he was told they could and amended the motion because of the time frame.

“Within one week from today we will address this matter,” Mayor Brien Lassiter said. “Recommendations will be made to the owner, to the contractor, and to the Council with the repairs being made within the historical parameters.”

With the motion amended, council unanimously passed the motion for input from the Historical Commission before approving the façade grant.