2013-03-07 / Front Page

Proposed golf course building dominates council’s open forum

One resident questions if new structure is needed
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

The Town Council will delve into details later this month about its plan to replace the building at the Jamestown Golf Course. That was the councilors response to three residents who raised questions about the project during open forum at their Feb. 27 meeting.

On Jan. 22, the council voted unanimously to demolish the clubhouse and build a new facility. However, the councilors did not define the cost or scope of the construction project, except to say that at the minimum, the new building would include a clubhouse and storage space to satisfy the lease agreement with the course operator.

The first resident’s question dealt with possible uses for the new building. Susan Nicholson asked if the blueprints could include first-floor storage space for the Jamestown Community Band.

Nicholson said the band was using space at the Jamestown Tavern.

“[They are] under no obligation to let us stay there,” she said.

When band officials saw that the clubhouse was being rebuilt, they thought the new facility might become a permanent home.

“Storage might be an issue,” Nicholson said. “We have a big

12-foot cart.”

The band also has a drum set, banners and signs.

According to Nicholson, the difficulty with storing instruments at the tavern is the stairs.

“Every week, we have to get stuff down the stairs and back up,” she said. “As we age, that becomes a little more difficult. Our dream is to have space and storage on one level.”

“There’s an interest,” said Council President Kristine Trocki.

Nicholson said that the band isn’t in “desperate straits,” but when she broached the subject to Duncan Pendlebury, chairman of the facilities committee, he suggested letting the council know as soon as possible.

Because the topic was not on the agenda, Trocki ended the conversation. “We can’t comment any further tonight,” she said. However, she indicated the councilors could put the matter on an upcoming meeting agenda.

Councilor Mary Meagher suggested the Town Council might continue discussions about the golf course building at the second March meeting. Trocki agreed.

Meagher added there would be several public meetings about the plans.

In other business related to the proposed golf course building, Jamestown resident Donald Richardson pointed out that contrary to an engineer’s predictions, last month’s blizzard and nor’easter had failed to dent the roof of the golf course building. The councilors had stressed the safety issues when they voted to replace the building. They said a structural engineer claimed the roof might collapse in extreme weather.

At the time, Councilor Eugene Mihaly said the golf course building was a “potential liability” for the town because the structure does not meet fire and building codes. His opinion was based on a report from Pendlebury, who recommended tearing it down.

Pendlebury spoke at the Jan. 22 council meeting and referenced a report from structural engineer Peter Grafe of C.A. Pretzer Associates. Grafe evaluated the building in September 2011 and suggested closing it in the winter. He also recommended shutting it down during hurricanes and tropical storms as a short-term solution to avoid personal injury if the roof collapsed.

The engineer also cited problems with the foundation and said the basement, where the golf course stored equipment, was not safe unless repairs were made.

On Feb. 7, also due to the safety issue, the council voted to close the building’s second floor permanently following a recommendation signed by Town Engineer Mike Gray, Building Official Fred Brown and Jim Bryer and Howie Tighe of the Fire Department.

Richardson also attended the Feb. 7 meeting and wanted to know how the golf course building had suddenly become so dangerous.

He repeated the question during the Feb. 27 open forum. The recent blizzard was one of the worst on record, Richardson said.

“Have you noticed the roof hasn’t collapsed at the clubhouse?” he said.

“It’s still standing,” Trocki agreed.

“How much would it cost if they kept the building and renovated it?” asked Richardson. “What would it cost to save the old building and what would it cost to build the building you want?”

Trocki replied that the council had already addressed the question and voted to replace the building.

Then Meagher said Richardson was probably correct to say the building was not likely to collapse.

“You’re absolutely right,” she said. “The building is still standing.”

However, according to Meagher, the engineering report created a legal problem for the town.

“The engineer described it as unsafe,” she said. “Once somebody has described it as unsafe, the town undergoes a certain amount of liability. If something did happen, the town would suffer.”

Meagher also said the golf course operator has complained he needs more storage and maintenance space.

“As to the building itself, there were a couple of issues, as well as issues about fire and access and egress,” said Meagher.

Richardson replied the golf course operator should be responsible for his own storage space.

Richardson also said he believed repairing the current structure would cost less than constructing a new building. “As a taxpayer in Jamestown,” he said, “I’m sure it would cost no where as much.”

Mihaly disagreed. “As much, if not more.”

Richardson said he was doubtful about the engineer’s report. He could remember a time when a restaurant occupied the building’s second floor. “It’s no different than it was 30 or 40 years ago,” he said.

“That’s the problem,” Trocki said, and added she would be happy to continue a discussion outside the meeting. She said the council was not going to revisit the council’s decision that was based on the “age of the building, the state of repairs, the engineer’s report, and the lessee’s issues.”

“It has been determined by experts the building needs to be torn down and rebuilt,” said Trocki.

Meanwhile, Richardson was welcome to write a letter, she said, or take up his objections with the town administrator.

“Are you going to discuss it in the future?” he asked.

Trocki said the council would discuss the plans for the new building “multiple times.”

Jamestown resident Sav Rebecchi said he wanted to hear more about the financing.

“You voted to replace the golf course building, but there was no discussion about how financially you were going to replace it,” he said.

Finally, Councilor Blake Dickinson defended his vote to replace the building.

“I weighed the report, my own personal knowledge of the building, and our overall goals with our obligations to the lessee and the taxpayers,” he said. “I think the decision was right.”

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