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Council has plans for new chamber in historic building

THE FORMER Roddenbery Hardware Company building is actually two old buildings that were combined as one in the late 1940s.

The Cairo City Council will likely give the green light on a major renovation of two of the city’s oldest commercial buildings after hearing a report on the project by a local contractor.
John B. Tuggle of Deep South Builders appeared before the council Monday night to review the plans for the remodeling of the former Roddenbery Hardware Company building on North Broad Street.
Tuggle, who has earned awards for his restoration work on historic structures, is serving as a consultant and general contractor on the project, which is a joint effort by the Grady County Historical Society and city.
The plans and specifications for the project call for a 1,000 square foot council chamber that will be outfitted with removable seating so that the room can be a multipurpose space.
The remaining section of the first floor, as well as the second floor, will be utilized by the Historical Society as an expansion of the Grady County Museum & History Center, located next door.
According to Tuggle, an elevator and stairwell will be installed and electrical and plumbing services will be expanded to the second floor, but will not be finished during the initial renovation.
Tuggle is still accepting bids on the project but, based on the lowest bids in hand, the city’s portion of the project totals $193,385.91. Several alternatives were included in Tuggle’s report including $12,925 for a public address system, $4,860 to upgrade the desk top of the council dais to granite from plastic laminate, and $4,000 to upgrade to 6-panel cherry wood doors in the chambers, lobby and restrooms to match the moldings in council chambers.
Tuggle has designed a council chamber that is accented by handsome moldings and the floor will be carpeted.
Between the council chambers and the Historical Society’s expanded museum display area will be a 200-square foot kitchen.
On the Historical Society’s side of the building, the flooring will be reclaimed heart pine with painted, sheetrock walls for displays.
The Historical Society’s cost for its portion of the project is $140,866.31, but the society has agreed to add to that cost $36,396 for an elevator to serve the second floor.
Logan Lewis, chairman of the Historical Society’s building committee, has been working with Tuggle and Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton on the project to date. The city and Historical Society split the cost of demolition, approximately $4,000, as well as $3,628.80 for the project plans and engineering.
The former Roddenbery Hardware Building is actually two buildings that have been combined into one. Of the two, the one closer to the railroad was built in the late 1880s and the second was built around the turn of the century. In the late 1940s, the two buildings were combined.
“What you’ve got right now is a shell. The building has leaked for so long, nothing much inside was salvageable,” Tuggle said.
The exterior will also be renovated with all new glass to be installed in the front and fresh paint, according to the contractor.
The general contractor told city officials this week that the project has to be done as one and that the Historical Society cannot begin work until the city gives the go-ahead for its half.
The city council budgeted $100,000 in the FY2010 budget, but that will not cover its share of the anticipated cost of the project.
“It is more expensive than I thought and, at the same time, it is a facility that will be very nice and an asset to downtown,” Mayor Richard VanLandingham commented Monday night.
Tuggle says that all in all there is 16,000 square feet involved in the restoration. He notes that there is extensive electrical and plumbing work involved in the project.
The contractor says that bringing historic buildings to today’s building code requirements also carries a price. Tuggle says that the first floor is currently unsafe and must be removed and replaced.
Addressing the cost of the project, Tuggle told city officials he had been asked to solicit bids on the project three or four years ago and that the current bids are within those original numbers.
“With the exception of one or two of the bids, I was well pleased with what we’ve got. Two years ago we would have been looking at $50 a foot more per square foot,” Tuggle commented.
“We will have to look at where we will get the rest of the money. Based on when work begins, it will probably run into the next fiscal year anyway,” Councilman James H. Douglas said. “I believe it is a worthwhile project. The building is in pretty rough shape so we would either condemn it or tear it down, and I am opposed to tearing down old buildings if they can be saved. If it were gone, no one else would build there. You can’t always put a value on something, but that building has value. I think it will be a great addition to the city,” Douglas said.
The Historical Society recently approved Tuggle’s plan and awarded a contract to him based on the city approving a similar contract. The society has held numerous fundraisers to raise money for the museum expansion and $200,000 was appropriated by the city and county from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds for the restoration project.
City Manager Chris Addleton told councilmen he will present a recommendation at the council’s next meeting on Jan. 28.

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