Engineering firm Bacon, Farmer and Workman said a member of the Calloway County Public Library Board “blatantly lied” when discussing a proposed assessment of the former Regions Bank building at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Board members approved in November to move forward with contracting two preliminary studies to determine whether the former Regions Bank building in downtown Murray is a viable alternative for library expansion. Board Secretary Mark Kennedy originally brought up the idea and said the building could be cheaper than the proposed $6.4 million expansion plan.
Library Director Mignon Reed said in the board’s November meeting that there needed to be a more in-depth study from architectural engineers. She provided the board with estimated costs for studies from RBS Design Group of around $12,000 and JKS Architecture of around $25,000. Kennedy argued then that the studies he wanted are relatively small, initial investments. The board allotted $2,500 for environmental and structural studies.
After allotting $650 for the environmental study by AAA Remediation, Kennedy said he wanted BFW to provide a structural engineering study. Kennedy said he had around $1,800 to pay for the study.
While giving an update about the assessments on Tuesday, Kennedy said BFW didn’t follow through on their promise. “They just reneged on what they said they would do originally, basically. Because originally they told me at the most it would be $1,500 dollars.” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said BFW then told him that they would need $8,000 to purchase new software to assess the building. “I said, ‘well, we’re not paying for it,’...so, Ron Bacon was a little disingenuous in trying to get us to pay for his software, so I told him no,” Kennedy said in the meeting.
In the Tuesday meeting, here's how Kennedy described his conversation with Bacon: "And he said he needs to get updated software for his programs and the software would cost $8,000 dollars would we be willing to pay for it and I said no." Kennedy then elaborated further: "And they asked if we would buy it and I said no, we can't do that. I said my budget was $1,500 to $1,800 dollars and I just want a preliminary study based on the blueprints and a walkthrough of the building. And he said, well, he would have to have that new software and he said he wasn't going to invest in it, but would we. And I said no."
When Reed asked Kennedy if it was BFW that said they needed new software, Kennedy replied, "Yeah, they said they needed - that it would be $8,000 dollars because they would have to update their software."
BFW Executive Vice President Mark Workman told WKMS News Kennedy’s comments were “extremely disappointing.” He said Bacon was unavailable for comment and spoke in his place and on behalf of the company. Workman said Kennedy lied about BFW requesting $8,000 for new software. "We do this every day. Why would we need a special software update for that?” He also said Bacon never discussed needing new software with Kennedy.
Responding to claims by BFW that he lied, Kennedy insisted when he spoke with Bacon about the assessment, Bacon told him that they needed new software to assess the building and that cost was $8,000.
Workman said Kennedy told the BFW office in Paducah that he initially contacted their Murray office who told him that they would be able to do an assessment on his "$1,000 dollar budget." Workman said their Murray office never spoke to Kennedy.
Reed initially requested more than a structural assessment from BFW, which Workman said couldn’t be covered by the $1,000 budget that Kennedy was requesting. Workman said BFW did offer a ‘watered down’ version, which would include the “blueprints” and a walkthrough to determine if books could be stacked on the first floor. Workman said the price for the ‘watered down version’ of the assessment was $1,500.
Workman said building owners Mark and Valerie Fredrick were supposed to give BFW structural plans, but only supplied some schematic plans on November 14. He said soon after that, Valerie Fredrick told BFW they had another structural engineer looking at the building. Workman said he told them to continue with the engineer they had, because it “wasn’t worth spending the library’s money to have the assessment done twice.”
Kennedy said Mark Fredrick is now overseeing the assessments of the building. “He wanted control of the studies. If it was a negative study, he didn’t want it going out without him having the opportunity to say ‘but,’” Kennedy said.
Board President Audrey Neal said Mark Frederick asked the board to sign a confidentiality agreement regarding the assessments that asked any blueprints or documents pertaining to the study not be subject to open record. Neal said the board sought legal advice on the matter and decided not to sign the agreement because the assessment involves the use of public funds.
Mark Fredrick declined to tell WKMS News who is doing the structural assessment because he wanted to “discuss more with the board” before revealing their identity. He said the engineer would eventually be paid by the library board for the assessment. Frederick said early results from this engineer have been “positive.”
Because BFW was the firm originally contracted, Neal said the new engineer commissioned by Mark Frederick would not be paid until the board decides that they provided a reputable report. “They can have that person do all the work that they want but until the library board decides we’d be okay with that person doing the work, that’s just going to be an expense that Mr. Frederick and his wife take on individually,” she said.
Neal said the board will consider options moving forward. “If this study can’t be done for the amount of money that was quoted, and is going to be something that requires a significant amount more, then I would question that this is something that the board needs to undertake because that’s a lot of money to possibly spend to find out the building isn’t feasible,” she said.
Workman said BFW has filed an open records request with the board to obtain documents between Kennedy, the library board, Mark and Valerie Fredrick and ‘anything associated with the Regions Bank building.’ “We’re not taking this lying down...we have one thing and that is our reputation. Ron Bacon has personally been defamed, the company has been slandered and Mark Kennedy is the one who did it,” Workman said.
Kennedy said he never meant to disparage BFW and said he has a ‘good relationship’ with the Principal Structural Engineer Ron Bacon. He also said that Bacon and BFW never asked the library board to pay for ‘the new software they needed,’ and denied that he said otherwise in Tuesday’s meeting.
Removing Committees And A Closed Session
In other meeting business, the board voted to remove two committees: the Financial Feasibility Committee and the Capital Campaign Committee. The board also went into closed session to discuss the possible acquisition of a building, but members stated this was not regarding the former bank building.