PINEDALE – A vote was defeated at the Pinedale Town Council meeting Monday night to move back into the old Pinedale Town Hall on Pine Street. The motion was defeated, however, not because of a lack of support for the move but because of it was too vague.
“I’ll make a motion that we do what we have to do to get back in there,” said councilman Jim Brost.
The discussion on reentering town hall followed a unanimous vote not to sell the property “right now,” as the council waits for property values to go back up. The structure, which was initially vacated in February 2016 so that asbestos could be removed from the ceiling, has since been all but abandoned by the town after it solicited engineering inspections that said it wouldn’t be cost-effective to bring the building up to 2012 building code, given the problems related to the roof and foundation.
Former councilman Tim Lingle argued that it didn’t need to be brought up to that standard, since the work required to move back in would be relatively minimal and therefore did not meet the criteria for building code updates.
Before taking office, councilman Jim Brost, who also does building contracting, offered to do the work for about $42,000.
After initially taking office last summer, he and councilman Tyler Swafford voiced their support for moving back in, but they received push-back from mayor Bob Jones and councilman Matt Murdock, in particular, who pointed to the engineering studies that said it shouldn’t be reoccupied. Those same studies cited the dangerous roof that could collapse under a heavy snowload and an inadequate foundation that was not attached to the structure.
Following a winter that brought the most snow to Pinedale in its history, Brost inspected the building recently to see how the structure held up.
“I walked through it,” Brost said. “(There were) no water spots on the ceiling so we know it’s not leaking. And the foundation, the cinder block, whether it’s code or not is not going to hurt a thing at this point to keep us from going back in there. It’s not going to create a safety hazard. We’ve had extra wind this winter, along with the snow, and Dorothy’s house didn’t fly away.”
“Yeah, but tomorrow it might,” Murdock replied. “And we’ve had three engineers that said not to move back in.”
Jones wondered if anybody on the council was ready to make a motion to tear down the building. Instead, Brost made his motion to “do what we have to do” to reoccupy.
Swafford asked what he meant by that and Brost said that it was just a matter of fixing the lighting and the ceiling, which corresponded to his original assessment before he took office.
“Not to be rude, but you’re not a certified engineer, correct?” Murdock said. “We have three reports from certified engineers.”
“Correct, and it stood up to what they (warned about),” Brost said. “You cannot tell me there was not enough snowload on that thing to create the problems they said.”
“You don’t have the authority to override the engineers and the code,” Jones said. “Our attorney already told us we shouldn’t go down this road. It’s just absolutely irresponsible.”
“It’s not going to be a simple fix just to move back in,” Murdock said. “What’s it going to cost?”
“I don’t think we ever got that number, even though I asked,” Swafford replied.
“To do the roof and stuff, that was one number,” Brost said. “As this winter has proven, there’s nothing wrong with that roof.”
Jones, again, pointed to the engineering studies, which said the roof needs major work.
“I know, and I feel some of those engineers were maybe coached a little bit ahead of them being down there,” Brost replied.
“So you think an engineer is going to put his PE (professional engineer) license on the line? Yeah, OK,” Jones said.
Rio Verde engineer Aaron Seehafer spoke up and asked if the council had ever considered “a nice modular” building for a potential, albeit temporary, town hall on the current site.
Seehafer said that could be a cheaper option if the cost to remodel the existing building was going to be more than $200,000.
Jones then called the council to vote on Brost’s motion.
For councilwoman Nylla Kunard, Brost’s motion was too vague before she would be willing to support it.
“We need to know how much it’s going to cost before we vote to move in,” she said. “I want some figures. I don’t want to just say, ‘OK, we’re going to move back in.’”
The motion failed, 1-4, with Brost as the sole supporter.
The council agreed to look closer at the idea of a modular structure.
“In the meantime, we ought to tear it down,” Jones said, adding that it’s an eyesore.
“That building, as a whole, does not look bad,” Swafford said. “It looks bad because it’s empty. That’s it.”
In other news from the meeting:
The town has been combating an algae bloom in recent weeks, which requires regular monitoring. The new equipment will allow them to do it remotely.
“I don’t want the dirt there all summer, plain and simple,” Kunard said.