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Hale Springs Inn project delays continue

Jeff Bobo • Jan 14, 2007 at 11:51 AM

Rebecca George, with the Rogersville Heritage Association, looks over the architecture and railing of the porch at the back of the Hale Springs Inn recently. A planned renovation project of the 183-year-old inn has yet to begin. Photo by Erica Yoon.

Hale Springs Inn project split into two phases to get first-floor finished and kitchen open

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ROGERSVILLE - Six weeks ago Rogersville city leaders were expecting to find out at any moment when the construction phase of the Hale Springs Inn renovation project would begin.

Rogersville building inspector Steve Nelson had been working with low construction bidder Armstrong Construction to whittle down the cost of the project to the level of the funds available, and he was waiting to hear from an engineer on a possible change.

Last week Nelson told the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen he still hasn't heard from the engineer and the project hasn't moved one step closer to beginning construction.

And now the city is reaching a critical time frame because the old construction bids approved for Armstrong Construction in August will expire in the middle of February.

Mayor Jim Sells noted during last Tuesday's Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, if the project has to be advertised for bids again, the cost is probably going to increase.

Right now a funding shortfall is the only remaining stumbling block.

In 2003, the Rogersville Heritage Association (RHA) received a grant for the inn renovation which will amount to more than $900,000 including the matching funds. But the project has been delayed for so long, and construction costs have increased so much that the grant funds won't come near completing the project.

Nelson is also a member of the RHA, which purchased the 183-year-old Hale Springs Inn in 2002. Aside from working to cut aspects of the project to lower the cost, he has been serving as liaison between the RHA and the city on the inn project.

Late last year, it was agreed to divide the project into two phases and complete renovation of the downstairs kitchen and restaurant first. But Nelson told the BMA Tuesday that even by cutting the project in half there's still not enough funds.

The shortfall numbers mentioned Tuesday ranged from $80,000 to $90,000.

Nelson told the BMA Tuesday that he is still awaiting information from an engineer who was hired by project architect Michael Emrick which will determine if a less expensive HVAC unit can be used. If so, that would lower the cost near to the level of funds available.

That engineering information is long overdue, Nelson said. Mayor Jim Sells hinted Tuesday that he's not totally satisfied with the punctuality of the architect.

Emrick has already admitted that a personal health problem slowed the project substantially while he was unable to work.

Adding to the urgency of getting the project started is the fact that the city is required to begin spending money from the first Hale Springs Inn grant before it can apply for a second grant, and it was a second grant that RHA and city leaders are hoping will pay for the second phase.

"I can't tell the board we should go ahead or how much we are going to spend until we get some figures," Sells said. "I don't want to mislead this board."

Sell added, "It wasn't the board that has been the hold up."

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