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Editorial: Give Engage Tri-Cities a chance to repair Hog Wild site

Editorial Board • Dec 6, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Does Kingsport stand opposed to a needed and worthwhile effort that will help create jobs for the homeless? If there’s any justification for that, we can’t imagine what it would be.

After years of putting up with the drunken violence at the Hog Wild Saloon right on the city’s main drag, Kingsport finally was able to shut it down after a fatal shooting in March. City police, fire and building officials went through the building and found a mess, with the structure violating numerous health and safety regulations.

It then held a hearing to determine the building’s fate. Information offered at the hearing showed numerous leaks in the roof, unsanitary cooking facilities, a non-working sprinkler system, and a rapidly deteriorating interior. Because of these issues, a building inspector recommended the saloon be demolished without delay. Less than a week later, Chief Building Officer Keith Bruner ordered the building razed.

Meanwhile, owner Paul Bellamy donated the building to Engage Tri-Cities, a mission operated by Jonathon and Carla Anderson, which partners with local churches and businesses on behalf of the needy, particularly in job training programs aimed at getting the homeless off the street and into employment. Engage Tri-Cities is an exceptional endeavor that began two years ago. You can learn more about it online at https://www.engage.cc.

Anderson hopes to restore the structure largely by using donated material and labor. For instance, a Morristown company has agreed to repair the roof at no cost. Anderson said other companies and volunteers are ready to move on the building.

Consequently, the Andersons appealed Bruner’s order to Sullivan County Chancery Court, asking that it be overturned. That left Judge John McClellan between a rock and a hard place. What he had in front of him was the city’s assessment that the building is worth $180,000 in its current condition and that it would require at least $235,000 to bring it up to code and make it fit for public use. McClellan had little choice but to deny the appeal, saying, “I don’t believe I can substitute my judgment for that of the building official.”

Agreed. That’s why the city should call the Andersons in to talk about their plan to save the structure and even redeem it. That’s why the city should retract its demolition order and give Engage Tri-Cities some period of time to do what they say they will do and repair everything that’s wrong with the structure.

That’s certainly a cheaper alternative than tearing it down and building anew. And there’s no denying the great good that will come to Kingsport with Engage Tri-Cities’ success.

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