OAKLAND CITY — The old City Hall building in downtown Oakland City will have the addition to its east side and the garage behind it demolished as part of a deal struck with a local business owner at Tuesday's regular meeting of the common council.
Oakland City Mayor Hugh Wirth brought the issue before the council, reporting Jerry Lee Basham, owner of Lamb-Basham Funeral Home, was interested in paying for the demolition of the two buildings in exchange for the property. Basham will also pay for the installation of an exterior door in an inside doorway space that a drive-through window once occupied.
Basham said he needed to know during the meeting whether or not the deal would be made, or he would explore other options. “If the city decides they don’t want to do it, then we’re going to restructure our plans in a different direction,” he said.
“I think it’s a good deal for the city,” Basham contended, outlining the expense he would be undertaking in the deal. “That can be pretty expensive when you figure the number of feet there,” he said. “That bill is going to be close to eight or nine thousand dollars to take these buildings away.”
According to Susie Basham, Jerry’s wife who helps run the funeral home, the space where the city’s buildings, and an old abandoned building the Bashams already own will be converted to parking space for the funeral home. Cars sometimes line nearby streets during funerals, according to Wirth.
The addition, also known as the old police department, flooded in April. Wirth said officials have made multiple attempts to mitigate the problem, but to no avail. “It was built on limited funds and it provided a good location,” Wirth said, “but there’s going to have to be some pretty serious money applied to that in order to save it.”
Right now the garage to be demolished houses two totalled police cars, which city police use for parts as they need them. The two cars could be moved either to an unused bay at the water treatment plant or at the new City Hall building, Wirth indicated. “A few years ago we didn’t have these options, but now we do,” he said.
While deliberating the issue, board members A.J. Cooper and Charles Cochran voiced concern about the state of the exterior east wall on the old City Hall and whether or not more work and thus more money would need to be devoted to the project.
The mayor brought the issue to a vote, with the exact proposition read by city attorney Jason Spindler. Council member Pat Vinnedge made a motion to approve, met by some questions from the other two board members present.
“It’s just that east side,” Cooper said in defense of not delivering a second motion. “I’d hate to find ourselves in a position where we need to come up with money where we have to seal that up,” he said.
Cochran echoed Cooper’s sentiments. “I just don’t want to see us end up in a situation where we piecemeal something just to protect it for a period of time and then we end up with more problems than what we’ve got now,” he said.
Wirth told the board there's no way to know the state of the wall until the interior layer of drywall is removed and the demolition process began, to which Basham agreed.
Police Chief Alec Hensley interjected during further debate, saying he was there when the addition was built. “The brick was completely intact except where the drive-through was,” Hensley said.
Spindler made multiple attempts to lead the board to reach a comprimise, such as an inspection followed by a special Thursday meeting, but Basham held firm to his position that the decision be made Tuesday.
Cooper came around after Wirth assured him the city had the money to cover any unforeseen issues with the demolition.