1-14-2005 Baloney? Or Shibboleth?

More on the liberation of the good folks at the Leader. From the e-mail inbox:

*******Mark, Dude, you can't let us hang like that. Your post prompted a call to 'bre and my favorite reporter could only tell me that "Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead" was heard being sung in the newsroom yesterday.

As someone who had to endure her spiteful self-righteousness wayyyyyy too many times, all I can is


Forty Fort dude*******

Dude!!! I saw you on the video advertising box the other night. You're freakin' famous, man. And not nearly as hideous as previously suspected.

I used to know a couple of people that worked at the Leader, but Allison unceremoniously fired one of them, and ragged the other one into inviting a quick escort out of the building after having given his two-week notice. I don't why she was sent packing for Siberia, but I wonder if it had anything to do with lead-lined stress balls, or some such nonsense. Got me, man. But I can't wait for the kinder and gentler Times Leader.

Rutro!...the '07 election season seems to have gotten underway if I'm interpreting the newspapers accounts of last night's council meeting correctly.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the residents of the Heights that brought this East Station issue to the forefront. Despite your disparate predispositions and, or your political motivations; y'all have managed to make this a hot-button issue that has our council folks taking a firm stand on the issue in public. Whereas the most troubling issues are concerned in a city with a strong mayoral form of government, that's quite an accomplishment. It really is. If history is any lesson, the legislative folks will typically point to the executive branch as the only hope for progress, or conversely, as the sole roadblock standing in the way of progress. What our council folks have done is to demonstratively state for the public record that the East Station dilemna needs to be addressed sooner than later.

And the fact that my neighborhood firehouse was recently closed without as much as a whimper being generated in these parts is not completely lost on me. I'm not sure what to make of that. Either we're much more docile in these parts, or we're much more receptive to dealing with reality as it currently exists. We'll have to leave that one to the Rhodes scholars to decide. Or, perhaps, our resident structural engineer, none other than Denise Carey herself.

As for me, I see this as little more than seven council people jockeying for public favor in advance of the fateful day when the seven member council as is currently the 'norm becomes the new-and-improved (?) five member council body during the next election go-round. It should be noted that two of our council folks reside within the shadow of this shuttered firehouse and may be doing nothing more than responding to the collective wishes of their obviously restless neighbor/constituents. But, they are also privy to the latest engineering report recently concluded by the Borton-Lawson slide rule types. And according to the Leader, that report states that the closed station needs anywhere between $241,000 to $340,000 to correct the myriad of structural deficiencies that plagues that eyesore.

In my convoluted mind, it sounds as if they're willfully denying the obvious while pandering for future votes. Never one to risk pissing off local politicians, I invite them to correct me if I'm woefully off base.

Anywhere between $241,000 to $340,000?

Let's explore that. Just in case the concerned citizens were not aware of this fact, this was not the first engineering study that was conducted on this aging structure. Not by a long shot. At least three, possibly four structural studies have been performed on this questionable structure and they were all conducted independant of each other. And they all came to the same basic conclusions. There are three separate issues that are clouding this building's future as a functionable structure.

1. The roof

2. The structural system

3. The code issues

As some of you already know, my current profession has me evaluating the structural integrity of buildings on a near daily basis. And I gotta tell ya, you cannot dismiss water stains on a wall or a ceiling as being no big deal. There is no greater destroyer of structural integrity than moisture. And I'm not talking about flowing water here. I'm talking moisture issues that are not even visible in most cases.

In other words, for some well-meaning, but vociferous bloke to merely glance at a water-stained ceiling and suggest that the mayor is a liar suggests that said bloke has never seen how much damage can typically be hidden from view as compared to what can be seen with the naked eye. Some of us can make these assessments based solely on experience, while still others can make these assessments from a completely ignorant perspective.

Say what you will, but the mayor's stated position that he will not throw good money after bad is 100% correct whereas remodeling this ancient structure is concerned. It's like 100 years-old, had it's third floor removed at some point and also had it's basement filled-in reducing it to an at-grade slab structure. Does that sound like a structure we should be sinking money we don't currently have into? Does it? One previous engineering study conducted by the Pasonick folks said the place needed to be closed. Closed, got it?

According to the latest engineering study, the building still remains structually sound, but would have to be gutted from top to bottom, side to side, to affect the significant repairs it needs.

I ask you, should we sink anywhere from $241,000 to $340,000 into an aging sinkhole of a structure when we could build a new single-floored, metal structure for $350,000 to $400,000? Is spending money we don't have simply to satisfy the folks thinking short-term, while thinking long-term is the more financially and politically expedient thing to do the right thing to do?

And what of our firefighters? Should they be reduced to working in a closet with electrical outlets that leak water, or should they be stationed in a brand new single-floored station with a state-of-the-art apparatus bay and living quarters that would not cause chronic sinus difficulties?

You tell me, man. But the political battle lines have definately been drawn on this issue.

From the newly-liberated Times Leader:

Doing nothing is not an option any more, we have to move without delay to address the Heights fire station.--Bill Barrett

I don't think we should let it go.--Kathy Kane

After the meeting, Kane clarified her thoughts, saying that with the estimate for repairing the old station as high as it was, building a new one made more sense than renovations. "But the ball is in the mayor's court now. The information has been gathered and it's time to act."

Councilman Jim McCarthy, who owns a bar and home near the station, said, "I think those numbers are a bunch of baloney." McCarthy said he felt the repairs could be done for significantly less.

From the gleeful folks at the Citizen's Voice:

Doing nothing is not an option." Councilman Bill Barrett said.

"It's imperative that we move quickly." Councilman Michael McGinley agreed. He proposed making some sort of decision on the matter within the next two weeks.

"We have in hand now a report from Borton-Lawson and we should act on it sooner rather than later."--Mike McGinley

At this point in the game, I feel that some type of plan should be in place."--Council Chair Chickie, Shirley Vita-Super-Nova

You've got to do it the right way, or don't do it at all."--Tony Thomas

DING!!!! We seem to have a winner on our hands.

You've got to do it the right way, or don't do it at all???

Radical thought process going on here, dudes!!!

And what the muck is up with: "I think those numbers are a bunch of baloney" coming from councilman Jim McCarthy?

I fully realize that the newspaper folks rarely explore a given story much past a super-charged controversial quote, but I'd really love to hear "Gentleman Jim" himself expound upon his limitless expertise as a structural engineer.

Are those numbers a bunch of freaking baloney? Or is Gentleman Jim a tad bit worried about being the lowest vote-getter in a city mandated by a public referendum to redistrict and eventually lose two of it's current council folks?

Let's cut to the chase here, shall we? The case could easily be made that our council folks scattered far and wide across the city are truly concerned about the public safety of the residents of the Heights. I, myself, am not nearly as politically naive as that. In my less than sought out opinion, they are horrified by how low our city has sunk, and they are positioning themselves to put the pressure for the much-needed immediate improvements to our infrastructure squarely on the mayor's shoulders. And a part of me doesn't blame them in the least. They are political animals by nature.

But our mayor said he would not throw good money after bad. And I wholeheartedly agree with his financially enlightened position. And now, believe it or not, we've got a city councilman saying "You've got to do it the right way, or don't do it at all."

So, what should we do here? Should we re-engage the McGroarty days of making seriously expensive and short-sighted Band-Aid mistakes? Or should we trust a more financially prudent mayor who steadfastly refuses to engage the short-term mentality of wasting money to secure future votes?

I really get a kick out of the SAYSO folks that refer to Mayor Tom Leighton as "One-Term Tommy." I do. Even if that prediction comes true one day, I think he'll lay the financial foundation that would allow anyone that may succeed him to look like a freakin' hero when the future profit-and-loss statements are made public.

Should we throw good money after bad in the Heights? At this point, it really depends on who you may talk to. So who you gonna listen to?

Jim McCarthy?

Borton-Lawson Engineering?

Denise Carey?

Or Tom Leighton?

Call me silly and then some, but for me, Tom Leighton has taken us this far (the once elusive financial solvency we all sought) and as far as I'm concerned, I trust him to take us the rest of the way.

And if I may, I would really have to ask our council folks if their collaborative efforts at forcing this East Station issue to some sort of rapid conclusion are driven solely by public safety concerns, or political ass-covering on their parts?

We don't need to quiet the voices of dissent in the Heights as some sort of '07 re-election doublespeak. What we need to do is the financially expedient thing that will pay off for generations yet to come. What we need to do is to protect the bottom line until the city finds itself in a more financially tenable situation.

You tell me, girls, I gotta go play with the amazing grandkids.

A crumbling, open-for-business, albeit, propped-up firehouse is one thing.

A long-term viable future is a whole other thing.

Make a decision.