Salisbury Firehouse Contract Weighed

SALISBURY — With talks dragging on since last December, the Salisbury City Council is finally set to vote next Monday on whether a contract for renovations to the downtown firehouse is still acceptable or if new bids for the property will need to be filed.

Last December, Salisbury accepted a $100,000 bid for the firehouse from Coastal Venture Properties, who plan on using the building as a restaurant, with a special focus on education. The plan for the site is to use it to train University of Maryland Eastern Shore students studying in the culinary and hospitality fields.

The relatively low bid price caused some concern among restaurant owners in the city when it was first accepted, but Coastal Venture representative Bradley Gillis reiterated to the council Monday that it wasn’t the company’s goal to drive other restaurants out of business.

“This is not to make money,” said Gillis, “this is to provide a community service.”

After originally accepting the contract, Coastal Venture was given 60 days to get the ball rolling on drafting a plan for the building. According to Gillis, unforeseen circumstances threw a wrench into the plans and the 60 days lapsed without action. Since then, the state of the bid has been uncertain. It hasn’t been officially dissolved but neither has it been extended to a new date.

“This is kind of precedent setting,” said Council President Terry Cohen.

If the council chooses not to extend the contract, the property will be back on the market and open to renewed bidding, a big step back in the process that Gillis believes will set Salisbury back at least another year or two in its efforts to get the fire station renovated. However, some on the council felt that Coastal Venture allowing the original contract to lapse might not warrant further extension.

“You didn’t have all the ducks in a row,” Cohen told Gillis.

Others on the council were more lenient.

“Things can happen,” said Councilwoman Shanie Shields. “Things did happen…there are flaws in everything.”

Shields stressed the proposal was “a good idea when we first heard it,” and hasn’t changed since then.

Gillis told the council it didn’t have a legal choice to make so much as a personal one.

Cohen was eager to achieve a resolution either way. “The city has lost time as well,” she told Gillis.

Because this week’s meeting was only a work session, the final vote on the contract will be on Sept. 26.