Majority of council supports Jefferson sale
Published 12:00 am Friday, July 22, 2005
Despite delaying a decision on the sale of the historic Thomas Jefferson School, most city lawmakers indicated Wednesday that they would support selling the property to downtown developer Mickey Garcia.
&uot;There was due process… and this young man came out ahead,&uot; said Suffolk City Councilman Charles F. Brown. &uot;We’re supposed to be honorable people up here.&uot;
The council voted to postpone a decision until its Aug. 17 meeting after council members Linda T. Johnson and Curtis Milteer Sr. indicated they would vote against the sale. Under the state constitution, the sale of surplus public property requires the support of six of the council’s seven members.
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Council members with questions will be submitting them to City Manager R. Steven Herbert over the next month.
The sale of the property catapulted into the public spotlight last month after some council members questioned whether the city was selling the dilapidated building at too far below its assessed value.
Garcia was one of three developers who responded last spring when the city issued a Request for Proposals to buy and renovate the building.
Developers from Richmond and Norfolk also submitted RFPs, Herbert said.
Garcia is offering to pay $105,000 for the 16,260-square-foot schoolhouse and .6 acres of surrounding property. He is proposing to invest more than $2.4 million into renovating the 1912 school into 10 upscale condominiums.
Johnson has also questioned the city’s RFP process, saying that not enough local builders were notified that proposals were being taken. She said several developers contacted her after the RFP deadline, saying they would have been interested in submitting proposals.
City Attorney C. Edward Roettger said the city complied with Virginia procurement laws – even exceeding it in some cases – in advertising and accepting the RFPs.
The RFP request was advertised in newspapers and posted for 60 days on both the city’s web page and on a bulletin board in the Municipal Building.
The city also sent notification to 75 developers, which is not required under the procurement act, Roettger said.
&uot;The procurement process was followed to the letter of the law,&uot; said Herbert.
On Wednesday, Johnson called for council to reject Garcia’s proposal and reopen the bidding process on the project.
Most council members said that would be unfair to Garcia, who met the city’s deadlines in the RFP submission process.
&uot;The proper legal steps were taken,&uot; Barlow said. &uot;We would lose valuable time if we put the project back out to rebid.&uot;
If the council refuses to sell the building to Garcia next month, the city would have to start the procurement process from scratch, Herbert said.
The delay could cost the city an extra three months, making it almost certain that Jefferson School would not be rehabbed before the spring 2006 opening of the neighboring Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts.