Everything proper in Jefferson school bid process

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

Editor, the News-Herald:

In response to the commentary printed on the opinion page of the June 14, 2005, Suffolk News Herald regarding the proposed disposition and development of the Jefferson School, I would like to provide your readers with the facts related to the proposal and the bid process. The City of Suffolk has complied with all the requirements under the Virginia Procurement Act.

In order to solicit Requests for Proposals, advertisements and notices were properly given using the media, mailers and the City’s web site. The RFP was advertised in the Sunday, February 13th edition of the Virginian Pilot and mailed to 75 office and industrial developers and realtors on February 14th.

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In addition, on March 3rd, the City held a mandatory pre-proposal conference and representatives from 12 firms attended.

Following that meeting, three firms submitted proposals, which the city received on April 14th. One other firm responded by letter indicating that it had too many prior commitments to participate.

It is encouraging for all of us that private investors are coming forward to invest in our downtown.

The Jefferson School is a derelict structure that will require thousands of dollars to remove asbestos, lead based paint, and to bring this once proud building back into use and on to the tax roles as an upscale residential address.

The fact that someone is willing to invest millions of private dollars in this building confirms what we know from observation; the downtown is once again becoming a place where business can flourish and people will live and enjoy the benefits that a rich urban environment provides.

Putting a non performing asset, which could easily have had a rendezvous with a wrecking ball, back into use makes great sense when it can improve the quality of life for those in its neighborhood and pay its way in new tax revenue.

City staff and City Council still have some negotiating to do before this project can be brought forward for City Council approval next month. When we finish those negotiations, I am certain that we will present a final project proposal for the re-use of the Jefferson School that will expand the growing tax base downtown, give new life to a great building and add momentum to the renaissance going on downtown.

R. Steven Herbert

City Manager