ROGERSVILLE - It seems like every time the Hale Springs Inn renovation project takes one step forward something happens to send it two steps back, but officials say it's now headed back in the right direction.
For the second time construction bids for the project have been advertised, and potential contractors will have a chance to walk around the 183-year-old inn Friday when the city of Rogersville hosts a pre-bid conference there.
The project has been four years in the making since the Rogersville Heritage Association purchased the building. The next crucial date for the project will be May 3 at 2 p.m. when Rogersville officials open construction bids at City Hall.
Rogersville went through the bid process last year and awarded the project to Armstrong Construction last August.
But when the low bid for the overall project came in at $1.8 million, about double the grant funding available for the project, Rogersville city officials along with the RHA, which will operate the inn, agreed to split the project into two phases.
Earlier this year, however, Armstrong Construction decided to opt out of the project when it and the city were unable to come to an agreement on cost of splitting the project into two phases.
Now the project is being advertised for bids in two phases, with the first phase comprising renovations to the kitchen, dining room and all first-floor public areas. Phase one also includes rebuilding the back porch and demolition in the second- and third-floor suite areas in preparation for phase two which will involve renovations to the upstairs suites.
Rogersville building inspector Steve Nelson serves as liaison between the city, RHA and the architect.
He told the Times-News last week that after paying architect fees there's still approximately $800,000 remaining from a 2004 Tennessee Department of Transportation tourism grant that was awarded to the city to pay for the entire project.
The city has already applied for a second TDOT tourism grant which it hopes will pay for phase two, and Nelson said last week everyone is crossing their fingers that the funds remaining from the first grant will cover phase one.
"We think there's enough money left in that initial grant to cover phase one," Nelson said. "While we were negotiating with the original contractor earlier this year we felt like we'd narrowed the cost estimate down pretty close for what we wanted to do in phase one, and construction costs have pretty much stabilized.
"Of course, we won't know for sure until we open bids next month."
One reason Nelson and other city officials feel confident they can now afford to pay for phase one with the remaining grant funding is the fact that the cost of the HVAC system will be covered by a seven-year zero interest state energy loan. That amounts to about $300,000 removed from the cost estimate.
Nelson said the state is providing the zero interest energy loan because the inn will receive an energy efficient all electric HVAC system, as opposed to the gas boiler system originally planned for the building. Rogersville is expected to pay off the loan from the city's general fund.
"It's a variable refrigerant flow system, and they are extremely efficient," Nelson said. "This system actually allows you to take the heat from the kitchen and recover it to heat the rooms."
The Hale Springs Inn was built in 1824, and before it closed in 1998 it was the longest continually operated inn in Tennessee. Three presidents have stayed there including James Polk, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson.
The kitchen and dining room are expected to be open upon the completion of phase one, while work on phase two is under way.