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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

True Costs of Martings -- Lollygag and Dicker = ?

The Portsmouth Daily Times had some more news about the infamous Martings building today. It seems the cost of ownership is substantial. The Daily Times reported:
"To close down the elevators, the city will need to close off the chassis and the shaft itself, completely disabling the two elevators, at a cost of $11,000.

"The Portsmouth Daily Times learned last week that the city pays an average of $4,000 a year in electrical bills for the building, and $1,500 a year to the State of Ohio for inspection of those elevators.

"Shutting down the elevators would allow the city to turn off the power to the building. Another building owned by the city, known as the Adelphia building, has already had the power turned off, and it has been broken into twice since November."

(Frank Lewis, "City Pays $5,500 a Year for Marting’s,"
Portsmouth Daily Times, April 15 2012)

I have some other questions about the Martings building:

(a) Doesn't the city pay taxes on the property?  Cost?

(b) Doesn't the city pay premiums for insurance on the structure?  Cost?

(c) Doesn't the property devalue with age and unkempt maintenance?  Cost?

(d) Doesn't the city pay someone to do necessary repairs and inspect the property?  Cost?

(e) Doesn't a committee and council invest time and effort finding a buyer?  Cost?

(f) Has the building ever been inspected for asbestos, mold, and other health issues?  Cost?

(g) Does the city still have the building treated by extermination professionals?  Cost?

I am asking for someone to calculate (estimate?) the total cost of owning the Martings property. Let's face it, the taxpayers are footing the bill for this ongoing expense. The residents of Portsmouth have expressed over and over again that they don't want the city to use the building. A non-profit organization offer of $1.00 fell through in a tangle of "who gave permission to do what with whom for how much" accusations.

The city paid an estimated $2 million for the old department store. What were they thinking? I don't know, but they certainly weren't thinking about the practical use of the property, the cost for renovations, and the return on their investment. Want proof? Drive to town and view the structure that has been owned by the city for the last decade. It is a symbol of a Titanic waste.

Portsmouth is a small town of 20,000 residents. The unemployment rate is 11.8%. Is it wise to believe the people who live here are willing to be satisfied with the ongoing "wheeling and dealing" over a defunct department store building? 

Nothing can make up for the first mistake of purchasing the building. City officials should give residents more credit for exposing the "inner workings" of the making of the fiasco that has resulted in major loss -- major economic loss from the pockets of taxpayers. People of Portsmouth are tired of continuing to contribute to a blunder: the purchase of an empty building that once housed a retail store in a now desolate downtown.

I have just a couple more questions:

(a) How much would it cost to demolish the property and clean the lot?

(b) How much would the property be worth once the Martings building would be demolished?

(c) Will the Marting’s Foundation give $1.4 million to the city to defray the cost of having the structure torn down?

Boys and girls, this whole headache doesn't require a brain surgeon to relieve the pain. Sentimentality and historical significance aside, the Martings building and its actual use does not hold some kind of magic that will open the locks to an efficient, clean city building or to the revitalization of the downtown business sector.

Instead swift, cooperative and appeasing action by city council -- a council that stands firm and committed together to positive change --  holds the key to running an effective, responsive city government capable of creating a sensible end to the problem. If the cost of maintenance is too high, then the city should tear the building down, live with their democratic decision, and get on with other important business.

I believe city government needs a new home but not a large home in a totally remodeled, old building that once served as a department store. The city council does not need to function as a real estate broker. It is evident their expertise is lacking. I think a new, efficient, small structure would serve the citizens well and, possibly, draw their vote for rebuilding, not restoration. Sites? Maybe a vacant lot on Chillicothe Street formerly known as the site of the Martings building would be a consideration.

The cliche' applies: "Two wrongs don't make a right." Throwing dollar after dollar into a money pit amounts to wasted resources the city government nor the city taxpayers can continue to afford.
This waste of money and wishful thinking contribute to the public perception that the city doesn't have a plan... a plan to solve most everything.

Continued spending with no return reminds me of an obsessive gambler in Vegas losing $2 million, then continually betting a thousand here and there in unsuccessful efforts to recoup his initial unwise, highly speculative investment. Viva Lost Wages! Wasn't it P.T. Barnum that said, "There's a sucker born every minute"? 

 To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

- Mary Oliver

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