Octagon building refurbishing approved without bids

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By Jeff M. Hardison

Thanks to a recommendation from Chiefland Building and Zoning Director Bill Hammond, local contractor Jerry Orenchak received a city-financed project priced in the range of $3,000 to $4,400 without having to bid.

The Chiefland City Commission unanimously voted on Jan. 14 to refurbish the old octagon building. Orenchak is the man hired to restore the historic structure.

Built in the 1920s, the octagon building was once City Hall. It was the City Library, Chamber of Commerce and Woman's Club at various points in the past 80 years too. The very first Rural Electric Agency meeting in Chiefland was held in that building. It has been used for Boy Scouts and the Chiefland Area Athletic Association to some extent as well.

On Oct. 22, 2007, the City Commission asked for suggestions and comments regarding the future use of the building. Friends of the Luther Callaway Public Library Treasurer Grace Andersen let the city know this group wants to use the building to display and sell books. Proceeds would go to benefit the library.

No other group came forward.

On Dec. 10, city leaders told staff to ascertain how much damage existed. Hammond estimated the cost of repairs for woodwork, restoring doors, reglazing windows and the like to be in the range of $3,000 to $4,400.

Hammond sent an e-mail to City Manager Grady Hartzog Sr., in which he explained his reason for not letting the project out for bids.

"I don't see how the city can bid this out with so many unknowns with what might have to be repaired," Hammond wrote. "My recommendation as Building Official is to let someone like Jerry Orenchak (gentleman you met at the building) who specializes in this type of work and has a very reputable reputation do the work. (He has done a lot of work for Andy Andrews and is a local contractor.)"

The motion by Vice Mayor Teresa Barron, seconded by Commissioner J. Rollin Hudson Jr., met with unanimous approval.

Friends of the Luther Callaway Public Library President Josette Flammang-Hayes, said the group would like to store the books there too. The Friends accept books and videos donated for resale to help the library, and the group has many books now.

Friends' member Barbara Smartley joined Flammang-Hayes as they sat through the majority of the meeting that Monday night before the topic was voted upon.

When asked if this refurbishing means the Friends will be able to use the building, Hudson said the city first needs to assure the level of damage is not too extensive to be refurbished, but the City Commission repeatedly has mentioned this is the only group to have applied to use the octagon building.