Onley Town Council Talks About New Town Office and Interim Council Member

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By Linda Cicoira-  Hot topics before the Onley Town Council Monday night were the proposed new town office that could cost more than $1 million to construct and the appointment of an interim council member to replace the seat left empty when Mayor Dawn Dize moved up to the mayor’s post recently.

Former Councilman J. Lance Eller won the seat in a 4-1 vote of council with Councilman Matt Hart being opposed.

Former Councilman Fred Gardner was favored by Hart for the job. Both Eller and Gardner wrote letters of interest to the council for the interim position that would last until the end of the year. Neither man is seeking a seat on council in the November general election.

Gardner was in attendance but was not permitted to speak about the job. Eller was stuck in the traffic backup from the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel accident that occurred Monday night (see page 1 for details). Officials said choosing between the two was difficult, so the majority decided to pick Eller because his letter was received first.

Hart favored Gardner because he attends more meetings, making it appear to Hart that Gardner is more interested in serving.

Dize was appointed to the top post after Mayor Jack Pierson died in September. Hart is running for mayor against former Councilman Billy Ferguson.

Regarding the proposed town hall, Town Manager Jamye Salazar said Onley has spent about $100,000 for the design of an “approximately 3,000 square-feet free-standing town hall building and associated site. The scope of services includes: architectural design, structural design, mechanical design, electrical and plumbing design, civil design, surveying services and geotechnical testing services.”

George Miles & Buhr LLC, an architectural and engineering firm in Salisbury, Md., prepared the plans. The only bid received for construction was from RH Contracting Inc., of Temperanceville, for $1.07 million.

Several council members said they could not vote for such an expensive structure.

“I don’t go buy a car without looking at other cars,” Hart said. “We have nothing to compare it to … building materials have gone up. It would be nice if we can get more bids … Anything over $1 million I think we can all agree, is too much.”

Councilman Ted Bliss was also not in favor of spending so much. He said on top of the bid, the architect would get 20 to 30 percent, which he also opposed. Bliss agreed with Councilman Woody Zember that another advertisement for bids was needed. Bliss said they initially anticipated spending $650,000.

The consensus was that the next council would make the decision. The board did not reject the bid after the town attorney advised to wait until another meeting when they could review all information.

“We don’t need seating for 100,” said Gardner, adding, 16 was the highest attendance he had seen at a session.