City Approves On-Call Engineering Agreement in Wake of Building Collapse

By Jeremy Coumbes on November 11, 2021 at 3:33pm

The City of Jacksonville is partnering a little closer with city engineers in the wake of a recent building collapse. The Jacksonville City Council unanimously approved an engineering agreement for on-call services during the regular meeting Monday night.

Mayor Andy Ezard says following the roof collapse at the rear of the Lair Building along North West Street, a formal agreement seemed necessary so leadership can call in engineers at a moment’s notice when there are questions concerning public safety.

Things come up and unfortunately we have things that are out of our control and it’s good to have an agreement with our local engineers when these things pop up. It’s good to have another set of eyes on things. You know, these things don’t pop up all the time but that’s part of it.

We are completely blessed to have two great engineering firms in Jacksonville. A lot of communities our size do not have firms like Hutchison Engineering and Benton and Associates. We are fortunate to have two of them right across the street from each other.”

Ezard says historically Benton and Associates have been predominately used by the city for water and sewer projects, while Hutchison Engineering has overseen more road-related projects. However, Ezard says he would have no trouble trusting either firm to handle any of these projects for the city.

Ezard says the agreement is more open-ended and not a contract of sorts. He says it’s to recognize the need when emergency situations like the Lair Collapse pop up.

On the Lair Building, we are trying to get some estimates because the city is going to have to do some stuff on the building that’s going to be on our dime to make it structurally sound. This one hit us at a hard time, thank goodness we have some money in our TIF that can take on this challenge financially. But thank goodness no one was in that building. That’s the bottom line, I mean nobody got hurt. We are going to move forward, we will clean that property up and it will be a good one.”

Ezard says there have been many times when he’s had to ask one of the firms to have an engineer look at a situation and help steer the city in the right direction, which doesn’t end up showing on a bill for services. He says it’s because both firms have good people who want to help see the city succeed.