Council reviews proposal

PORTERDALE - The City Council reviewed the proposed project description for the rehabilitation and renovation of the historic Porter Memorial Gymnasium at its Aug. 12 work session.

The firm selected to carry out the project, Richard Wittschiebe Hand, is set to begin Phase I of the three-phase project, which is expected to cost $24,250. The first phase includes working with the community to determine how the building will be used and creating a written program of uses, as well as producing a written assessment of the current condition of the building.

According to the proposal, RWH plans to conduct a total of four workshops to determine how the gym will be used in the future. The first workshop will involve the full community and invited guests. At the second, which will include the mayor and council, the RWH plans to present the options from the first workshop so that the mayor and council can determine which direction to take. At the third workshop, RWH will present the developed option to the mayor and council, including a conceptual plan for the building and the elevations showing the exterior look of the building. The mayor and council will present the developed option to the community at large at the final workshop.

The first phase of the project is expected to take three months.

The council will make a formal decision on the proposal from RWH at a called meeting Aug. 28.

Due to financial constraints, Porterdale is planning to restore the gym in phases. Porterdale has approximately $850,000 earmarked for the gym reconstruction from a variety of sources - special purpose local option sales taxes, state grants and an insurance settlement.

The historic gym was gutted by fire in October 2005. The fire left the gym's exterior brick walls standing, but nothing remains of the interior. The fire was apparently deliberately set, though no one has been arrested in the arson.

Janice Wittschiebe and Carol Richard, principals in the firm of Richard Wittschiebe Hand, told the council during a June 9 presentation that public projects for recreational and educational purposes are their firm's forte. Wittschiebe said that the firm has been selected by the Newton County Recreation Commission to renovate the old Cousins Gym on Geiger Street. In addition, the firm conducted a project to expand the uses for the gym at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus.

Alice queen can be reached at alice.queen@newtoncitizen.com.