Marietta officials eye armory for new home

MARIETTA – The homeless Marietta City Council may finally establish permanent chambers at Armory Square, according to a discussion during Monday’s lands, buildings and parks committee meeting.

“I just want to have a council chambers so we’re not in this room; we have to almost close the door because of noise in the hallway, and this is really an embarrassment to the city,” said Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward.

Most committee meetings are held in the cramped second floor conference room at 304 Putnam St., just up the hall from the city health department where flu shots were being administered to children and their families Monday afternoon.

Vukovic said council and its committees have never had permanent chambers in which to meet during his several terms as a council member. Regular council meetings are held twice a month in the community building at Lookout Park on Harmar Hill.

Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs the lands, buildings and parks committee, noted there is space on the ground floor of the Armory Square building that would provide seating for 62 people or more and could serve as council chambers, including office space for the council clerk.

“And if more room is needed for occasional larger crowds the meetings could be moved to the gym area on the second floor of the armory,” he said.

Noland asked Jane Tumas-Serna with the Friends of the Armory support group and Armory Square Board to provide the council members with a proposal for developing chambers at the armory building during a meeting next week.

Tumas-Serna agreed, and said the facility would also be open for council members or others to tour at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 16.

Noland announced the Friends of the Armory had raised more than $63,000 through donations and engraved brick sales that provides the required matching funds to secure a $252,000 Scenic Byways Grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

He said the money will be used to renovate the building’s ground floor into office space for WASCO Inc., a Washington County Veterans Services branch facility, Baron’s Bus Lines, and the Marietta Adventure Company.

That list of tenants could also include the Marietta Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as Marietta City Council chambers.

Another possible location for council chambers is the ground floor of the Marietta Municipal Court building at the corner of Third and Butler streets, according to city safety-service director Jonathan Hupp.

He said court concerns about locating council chambers at that site had been resolved as long as the chambers remained separate from the municipal court facilities on the second floor.

Hupp said city crews could provide the renovation work that would be required, but a cost estimate for that work had not been established.

Noland noted one potential problem with the municipal court location was that the floor of the room in which the council chambers would be located had to be flood-proofed, according to the Washington County Permitting Office.

He said council members would hear both proposals for a permanent council location at the court or armory during a lands, buildings and parks committee meeting next week. The exact time, date and location of that meeting will be determined later this week.

In related business Monday, Hupp distributed a letter to the committee members, suggesting that $57,611 of the $63,000 raised by Friends of the Armory be used to reimburse the city’s capital improvement fund for monies expended on the armory building roof repair project.

He noted an ordinance was passed in May that stated the city was promised reimbursement of the money to the capital improvement fund.

“Everyone knows that it was the intent that these monies be repaid,” Hupp’s letter read. “We also know the borrowed money could desperately be otherwise utilized in other essential city acquisitions.”

But Noland said the $63,000 raised by Friends of the Armory should be used to secure the $252,000 Scenic Byways Grant or that funding could be lost.

In his letter Hupp added that if council did not support the city administration in attempting to recover the capital improvement monies “then citizens need to be made aware that any future development on the armory will be formally shelved.”

The letter further stated that if council members do not want to pursue the reimbursement a resolution should be drafted indicating council’s intentions so that the administration could have documentation to show the state auditors at the end of the fiscal year.