Saving the Sands Dorsey should be put to a vote of the residents through a bond issue, suggested commissioner Jim Witcher at Thursday's city commission meeting.
Commissioner Jim Lafferty said he was perplexed by Witcher's suggestion because Witcher had voted in a previous city commission meeting to have the building demolished.
Witcher said he had a right to change his mind.
Witcher said residents have approached him about saving the building and he felt obligated to introduce the suggestion and to have it put on the agenda for the commission's next meeting.
"Let the citizens decide what they want to do, that's the democratic way," Witcher said.
"It's an alternative. I don't think it would cost more and that's why I've brought it up for discussion. We don't know how much it's going to cost to tear it down and we don't know how much it's going to cost to fix it up," Witcher said.
Either way, the city has not budgeted for the expenses of dealing with of the Sands Dorsey, commissioner Robert Lumpkin said.
"Whatever, we do ... it's going to cost a lot of money," Lumpkin said.
Witcher suggested the bond issue could be enough to rehabilitate the Sands Dorsey as well as Princess Theater and other city-owned buildings.
Any bonds that were issued would have to be paid off by some tax or fees earned by the city.
If the city worked to save the buildings, it's possible that the costs could be covered by a grant from a historical preservation program that would not the cost the city any funds, Lumpkin said.
"We don't have an obligation to rehabilitate someone's else's property," Lafferty said.
The city does not own the Sands Dorsey property, but has begun legal steps to take ownership. It recently filed a lien against the building's owner to recoup its costs of fencing off the area for safety. The city does own the Princess Theater, Witcher said.
However, because the condition of the Sands Dorsey building is a public safety hazard, city manager John Sutherland said the city could demolish the building in the interests of public safety.
The city does not have to tear down the Sands Dorsey, it does have an obligation to make it safe, Witcher said.
By suggesting that a bond issue be put to a vote, the city has not slowed down the process it voted on earlier to raze the building, Witcher said.
While Witcher's suggestion to have residents vote on a bond issue that would fund restoring the burned-out building is not dead, the commission, including Witcher, voted to negotiate with a contractor for engineering services to tear down the building.
The city approved the selection of the W.H. Pacific, Inc. of Albuquerque to provide demolition engineering services. The city will negotiate with the firm to determine a fee.
Muralist Doug Quarles spoke before the commission and asked that the city reconsider its path to raze the building.
Safety and the closure of the alley is a big concern, Quarles said, and suggested that another way be found to shore up the building instead of using metal supports that block the alley.
The Sands Dorsey burned last year and is at the corner of South Second and Main streets.
The building is one of the city's oldest historical structures and should be saved, Quarles said.
In making his plea to save the building, Quarles said, tourists come to older, small towns to visit historical sites, "they don't come to see empty lots and new stuff."