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Dead issue given new life
A Column by the Editor
posted April 20, 2009
COLUMN – Some people just can’t take “no”
for an answer on a “dead” issue, in this case the county’s refusal to
purchase the Calliham building and property. Edgefield Mayor and
President of Edgefield Construction, Ken Durham, has once again brought
the matter up for discussion by the Edgefield County Council though
earlier this month County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece said the issue
was “as dead as it gets”. The matter should not be allowed to be
resurrected and the county should move forward on plans to rebuild on
the Church Street property we already own.
After it was announced that there would be a special called meeting of
the County Council for Tuesday night, I stopped in to see County
Administrator John Pettigrew who said the council would be reviewing
yet another proposal by Durham. So the next logical stop was the office
of Ken Durham for more information.
Durham stated he has now figured out another way to make the purchase
go forward by working out a scenario where the purchase and remodeling
could be accomplished without costing the county any additional funds.
I have not seen the proposal, and quite honestly I have no idea why
Chairman Kneece or the county council is even allowing Durham to push
his plan again.
It begs the question, why is Durham so dead set to have the county
purchase the property?
J.P. Calliham could never produce a clear title to the property (asking
price of $425,000 when the county considered buying the building) and
the property was sold last month on the courthouse steps for $50,000.
I’m certain the new owner, Mr. Calliham’s cousin, who held over a
$400,000 lien on the property when it foreclosed, is going to sell it
short for the good of the county. Not!
Also due serious consideration is that all the proposed numbers on
renovations have always come from Durham. I wonder why the numbers are
coming from Durham instead of an outside company, and the price of
renovations keeps going down each time. Basically, in my opinion, the
numbers Mr. Durham is giving the county council to consider are
fictional at best.
Durham’s claim to have worked out all the construction costs for
remodeling just a portion of the Calliham building to the penny is,
with all due respect, not one that I have much confidence in - taking into consideration his historical record of construction and
remodeling projects he’s done for the county in the past. The work on
the jail, over budget, the remodeling of the county council chambers,
way over budget, yet we are to believe this time he has it all figured
out to the penny for a building that is over 50 years old.
Not to mention the numbers are provided without any specifications
(required in commercial construction projects), no blueprints, and the
fact that nobody, not even Edgefield Construction, can guarantee a
price on a remodeling job because of the fact that you never know what
is hidden behind the walls of an old existing building adding
thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, in extra cost every
time an “unexpected problem” is “discovered”.
In past conversations with Mr. Durham on the cost of remodeling any
building he gave a square foot price of between $90 and $100, not
counting any unexpected problems. That would mean the remodeling of
less than half of the building would range in price from $360,000 to
$400,000 (or $810,000 to $900,000 for the entire building).
Given those numbers, that would mean that the purchase price of the
Calliham property would have to be in the area of $200,000 just to come
close to break-even for the county. Not to mention, the county would
then be responsible and liable for the entire property from the date of
purchase and beyond.
I would also point out that Edgefield Construction would not be able to
be involved in the remodeling project (if the county council unwisely
votes to proceed in the “dead issue”) due to his intimate involvement
in the matter. So if Durham is wrong in his estimates he has “no dog in
the fight” and the taxpayers will be left holding the bag, or the
bills, as the case may be.
Another problem is that the Edgefield County Council has never received
the first public comment on this matter, always running behind closed
doors to discuss it. Open government at its worst.
The simple fact is the county needs a new building and must begin
construction soon. The deadline to collect the additional insurance
money runs out in the next two months if construction does not get
underway before the deadline. Enough is enough, let’s move on with the
plans already in hand for the new building and be done with it. We
already own property where the planned 4,000 square foot building will
go and rebuilding the one destroyed by fire is the most logical
solution to the problem.
If Durham’s plan is so great, let the Town of Edgefield buy the
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