A neighbor of the Armory is questioning the viability of the proposed purchaser to finance and complete th necessary restoration of the Armory, the security which the city would require ensuring completion of the restoration within a reasonable time, and the process that the city would follow in the disposition of the property.
Following a press release from the City Manager’s office where some details were shared that the Newport City Administration has been discussing for several weeks the National Sailing Hall of Fame’s (NSHOF) acquisition of the Armory property on Thames Street, Steven Cundy sent the following to Newport City Council via James F. Hyman, Esq. on February 9, 2018.
“Members of the Council,
Steven Cundy is a resident of the city of Newport and resides in the building immediately adjacent to and south of the Armory Building. Steve together with his family has resided at that location for over 28 years. Over the course of those years he has observed the maintenance of the Armory Building by its various owners which consisted of the state of Rhode Island, the Redevelopment Agency of Newport, and the city of Newport, the current owner. The infrastructure of the building over those years has been allowed to completely deteriorate and substantial restoration of the structure is clearly necessary from a safety concern as well as an aesthetic concern.
The deterioration of the building is well documented. In 2007 the north wall of the Armory collapsed. The wall was repaired, and the city engaged engineers and architects to assess the condition of the Armory. The assessment, which is dated May 27, 2008, found, among other matters, that the masonry walls of the Armory were bulging outward on the south elevation of the building and further noted that this elevation is extremely close to the adjacent building, which is Mr. Cundy’s residence. The recommendations made in the assessment are to permanently rebuild the granite veneer using mechanical ties, solid grouting and repointing at the location of the Head House south wall, head house, northeast turret, Drill Hall northwest turret and Drill Hall west wall. This work was considered by the engineers to the be High priority. The city did install temporary steel plates at the head house south wall, head house northeast turret and drill hall northwest turret. That work done by the city was considered in the report to be the most urgent stabilization and a temporary measure only. The report anticipated that the work done by the city to temporarily shore up the building would subsequently be replaced. Ten years later the High priority work recommended in the report remains to be done. Ten years later, the danger of the South wall collapsing upon the neighboring property remains.
In 2010, the city acquired the property from the redevelopment agency. During that time, no attempt at restoration of the infrastructure has been made. Mr. Cundy agrees with the concept of selling the building, as it is clear, the city has very few resources to commit to a restoration of the building. The city manager in his press release of February 1, 2018, cites discussions with the National Sailing Hall of Fame about the acquisition of the property. Although not cited in the press release, the price of $2 million dollars appears to be the number. The press release further states the value takes into consideration the extensive repairs that need to be done to the exterior of the premises. It is apparent that all interested parties agree that the building needs substantial restorations. The question Mr. Cundy raises is the viability of the proposed purchase to finance and complete the necessary restoration. This raises a second question as to the security which the city would require ensuring completion of the restoration within a reasonable time. If the city receives a fair price for the property and at the same time ensures restoration of the building, then the concerns expressed as to safety will have been satisfied.\
The press release, also, did not discuss the process that the city would follow in the disposition of the property. Chapter 2 of the city ordinance requires the utilization of a competitive bidding process and absent a competitive bidding process, then utilization of a competitive negotiation process. This is also mandated by state law. The press release, as noted, was silent on the process to be used in the disposal of the property. This is a serious concern as the process is designed to protect the city and its taxpayers from making an inequitable sale.
Considering the above, it is extremely important that the Council utilize the appropriate process. In this regard, prudence dictates that the Council instruct the city manager to develop requests for proposals for the disposition of the building for consideration by the Council. The Council may wish to invite members of the public to also submit proposed requests for proposals, which could then be considered by the Council. Once the Council determines what process serves the best interest of the city in the disposal of the property, the utilization of the competitive bid process or competitive negotiation process would operate to ensure that the resulting sale of the Armory Building is reasonable, transparent and fair.
By James F. Hyman, Esq.”