BISBEE â€” Though the county Board of Supervisors awarded a $3.849 million contract to Concord General Contracting for the restoration of the former Phelps Dodge building in Douglas on Tuesday, one supervisor wanted to slow things down to take a closer look at preserving the massive pillars and beautiful wooden and wrought iron staircase and railing in the more than 100-year-old building.
Shar Porier/Wick News Service Tuesday afternoon, April 5, County Supervisor Richard Searle, left, talked with County Administrator Mike Ortega, right, and Douglas City Manager Curtis Shook about saving the wooden and wrought iron staircase in the old Phelps Dodge building in Douglas. Though the architect is calling for a new staircase to meet code, the county wants to keep as much of the interior as intact as possible.
Last summer, an agreement was reached between Douglas and the county to partner in the revitalization of the former Phelps Dodge general store. Plans were drawn up with input from the city, county department heads and county administration.
Now, those plans have been altered.
â€śPart of the attraction of the project was its historical nature. The idea was to preserve it inside and out. Iâ€™m disappointed that it has been gutted,â€ť said Supervisor Richard Searle. He was not happy when the architect, David Wald-Hopkins of BWS Architects, said the staircase could not be saved, nor the old ceiling tiles, nor the pillars. â€śIt probably would have cost as much to build a new building.â€ť
Wald-Hopkins explained the staircase did not meet building code, the railings were too short and the metal ceiling tiles had been painted with lead paint. Since the plans included attaching walls to the lead-paint celling, it would create a toxic hazard. So, he proposed to build a new staircase and install new metal ceiling tiles. â€śWe could use some of the wood from the old staircase.â€ť
Ortega said to Searle, â€śI share your disappointment. I think we need to have a conversation with staff. We need to take the time and analyze this. Look closely at the stairwell.â€ť
Concordâ€™s bid is good for 30 days, so the supervisors put a hold on construction proceeding until determinations on the buildingâ€™s interior could be discussed further.
Supervisor Ann English stated that the building had to meet code and there was no other option. â€śI think theyâ€™ve done what they could. When you deal with old buildings you always have to expect the unexpected.â€ť
With the budget problems the county faces, Supervisor Pat Call said, â€śI am concerned about spending the money in these tough times. But, this money was put aside years ago. Itâ€™s an investment in our employees and in Douglas. Iâ€™ve had problems with building rehabilitations and cost. In this case, weâ€™ve been able to make it work. And once itâ€™s finished, it wonâ€™t require much in upkeep.â€ť
In other business at the community outreach meeting held in Douglas, the superintendents:
â€˘ Made two proclamations: one for Childhood Cancer Week from April 24 through April 30 and National Crime Victimsâ€™ Rights Week, April 10 through April 16.
â€˘ Heard a presentation from Victor Gonzalez of the Douglas Regional Economic Development Corporation, who also requested the county join the group and pay $10,000. There was no further discussion on the request.