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Ghent delays action

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Building inspector left to next year

By Phyllis McLaughlin

A proposal to hire a building inspector for the city will have to be decided by the new Ghent City Commission next year.

Commissioners at the Dec. 11 meeting agreed to table the proposal, brought by Tom Torline of Ghent.

Torline has offered to contract with the city as building inspector on an as-needed basis to inspect new residential and commercial structures, as well as exterior additions such as decks “to determine if they are complying with code,” he told commissioners last week.

Two incoming commissioners, David Hendren and Lonnie Mefford, said they are skeptical that residents would approve of Torline as building inspector because of the condition of a property he owns in downtown Ghent.

“That’s my biggest issue,” Mefford said, describing the building, which has space downstairs for retail and apartment units on both levels, as “trashed.”

Hendren agreed. “What are you going to do if you block a building [project]? It gives me pause.”

Mefford and Hendren describedTorline’s property as  being an eyesore in disrepair, with broken windows and unfinished renovation.

The building “is structurally sound,” Torline rebutted, adding that he has not finished working on the building mainly because of the economy.

“If I thought I could keep it rented, I would have finished it,” he said, adding that all the broken windows are boarded up and the building is secure. “It has brand-new flooring. It’s almost ready to go. … Electric work is all it needs.”

“If you finished it, you might be surprised,” Hendren said, alluding to the possibility that there may be someone in the area interested in renting the retail space and apartments.

Sandy Beall, who also joins the commission in January, asked if the city is required to have a building inspector.

Hendren, who has been serving on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission for the past two years, said no, “but it’s coming to that, where every city will have to have one.”

Resident Cheryl Nohner suggested that before the city makes a decision, it would be “a good idea to get citizens’ opinions” on the issue.

She suggested that the city take a petition door to door for signatures for or against. “People don’t have the time to come to meetings to voice their opinions,” she said.

Mayor William Mumphrey said he plans to advertise for bids for the position before any decision is made.

“That’s the best thing to do,” Torline said.

In other business, the commission voted to sign a contract to hire Heritage Engineering LLC to oversee the upcoming sidewalk project.

The city received grant funds from the state to install sidewalks in return for grant money returned to the state that had been awarded for renovation of the church building that houses City Hall. That grant, totaling $250,000, was returned because the city couldn’t afford to match the funds for the project.

According to the contract, Heritage will be in charge of the design phase of the project, which will provide 3,512 linear feet of sidewalks between Union and Main (U.S. 42) streets on the west side of Main Cross Street (U.S. 47); on Union between Fishing and Ferry streets; and on both sides of Main Street.

The project also will include 1,996 square feet of concrete aprons in front of store buildings, as well as installation of a culvert underneath Henry Clay Alley to alleviate drainage issues there that are eroding the foundations of historic buildings.

Heritage also will oversee the project and inspect the work during construction and when the project is completed.

After the meeting was adjourned, Commissioners Lisa and Kenny Barr were thanked for their service to the city. Neither they, nor Commissioner Hershel Smith, sought re-election in November.

Beall, Mefford, Hendren and Jimmy Lewellyn, who was re-elected for another term, were given the oath of office by Magistrate Mark Bates. The commissioners’ terms end Dec. 31, 2014.

The first meeting of the new commission is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at city hall.