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Duluth City Council expands scope of Red Clay Theatre work

DULUTH - The Duluth City Council rejected bids to demolish the end of the Red Clay Theatre and Arts Center on Main Street at its Monday meeting.

The council directed city staff to draw up a new proposal to seek bids for demolishing and rebuilding the entire old part of the theater following recent heavy rains and flooding.

The council had been comparing the bids during a work session before the meeting when Chris McGahee, the city's economic development manager, reported that water damage, mold and mildew had turned the old part of the building into a health and safety hazard. The old section has been partitioned off with plastic, he said.

Councilman Doug Mundrick, who made the motion to reject the bids and expand the scope of the work, said that the bad weather had "exposed more problems" with the structure.

The newer part of the building containing the stage, seating and concession area would remain intact.

Marcus Hoge of the Marcus Corp., which had submitted the bid recommended for approval, expressed frustration with the council's decision to reject the bids.

Hoge pointed out that his company's bid had been about $80,000 less than the bid submitted by the Mathias Corp. for the theatre project. Mathias built the new Duluth City Hall and also the Duluth Downtown office/retail complex across the street.

"It cost me $5,000 to bid this job. There's a bias here," Hoge said. "I just ask on the next go around, that you be fair."

The theater was renovated from the former Calvary Christian Church and opened in 2006.

The end of the building was proposed to be demolished and a new exterior wall constructed in preparation for improvements to Ga. Highway 120.

The council had postponed awarding a contact for the theatre project at its last meeting Sept. 14 because it had questions about differences in the bids and sought additional information from bidders.