SALEM - Visitors to Salem's downtown may get to walk on the sidewalk again by the TanFastic and Butler buildings, protected either by scaffolding or a wooden structure.
Mayor John Berlin advised city council's Committee of the Whole Thursday night about the options under consideration in preparation for the Salem Super Cruise next month, all with safety in mind, both for those few days and into the future.
Since last July, the sidewalks and the parking spots in front of both buildings have been barricaded as off limits due to safety concerns from falling bricks and mortar off the side of the one building.
City leaders talked previously about finding a way the area can be used again, especially with the large crowd-attracting cruise event coming soon. Berlin said he didn't know if people would adhere to the barricade and warning tape, unless they posted police officers there.
He researched the cost of renting scaffolding or building a wooden tunnel-like structure, with committee members suggesting he also check into the cost of buying scaffolding which could be used again. He'll be reporting back to council Tuesday night.
To rent scaffolding, he said it would cost $912 for every 28 days for a 6-foot side walkway 48 feet long up to 15 feet in the air with 6 feet of headroom in the walkway underneath. Predicting it could be up for an indeterminate amount of time before something happens with the buildings, Berlin said the rental cost for 12 months would be about $12,000.
For the other option, he secured a quote from a local construction company for building a wooden structure that totaled $11,900. The wooden structure would measure about 10 feet high, 6 feet wide and cover an area in front of the TanFastic building and part of the Butler building. He explained the roof would be sloped, measuring 12 feet at the highest point and sloping toward the building so if any bricks fell, they would end up toward the building instead of bouncing onto the road.
He provided a photograph he secured from the Salem Historical Society dated 1929 when the Pow building which was home to the First National Bank at the corner of State and Broadway was being torn down. A wooden structure which resembled a baseball dugout with a back wall toward the buildings, a roof and open toward the streets was erected so people could still use the sidewalk. The bank building used to be next to the TanFastic building before it was torn down. At one point, the current building on the corner was built and there was nothing but an empty lot between the TanFastic building and the current bank building.
Berlin said the cost for either option could be covered by money in the events fund, which is the fund where all the money raised during the Salem Super Cruise goes.
In other business, the committee, which is comprised of all seven council members, heard a presentation by George Morris III, president of the Morris Financial Group, and Dee McFarland, Senior Benefit Resource Representative for the Morris Financial Group, regarding the Affordable Care Act and how it may affect the city government.
Morris said the city is in good shape coming into 2014 when the main provisions take effect because of a two-year rate guarantee when the city switched to a health insurance plan with Medical Mutual in August 2012. The city's rates will be locked in for the first seven months of 2014.
The city will be affected by some provisions, such as the elimination of the pre-existing condition, some new fees and the expected increases in rates when it is time to renew.
Morris said 2014 will be a huge transition year and nobody knows what all will happen at this point. He said there may be a point where a lot of employers walk away from having insurance, opting instead to just pay a fine.
McFarland estimated an 8 to 10 percent increase due to fees associated with the Affordable Care Act and another 12 percent increase for costs for rates. Combined, she said they could be looking at a 20 percent total increase to costs.
Berlin estimated that would cost the city an additional $200,000 per year.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org