Move over city clerk, the Parker house is the hot button topic in Mexico Beach.

Move over city clerk, the Parker house is the hot button topic in Mexico Beach.

During the city council’s monthly workshop last Tuesday, Brian Cathey of Cathey Construction was invited to speak on the status of the historic building that was purchased by the city in mid-2011 with the intention of using it as a new city hall.

The building caught fire several months later and suffered massive damage.

For the last two years the city has gone back and forth about whether it would be more frugal to tear down the fire-damaged home and erect a new structure or attempt to rebuild what is left while also installing an elevator and other improvements that would bring the building up to commercial code.

The city’s insurance company paid the city $660,000 for the damage and sent a representative to assess the existing foundation slab.

The rep verbally told the council that is fit to build upon but according to city administrator Chris Hubbard, the city has not received formal written documentation of the assessment.

Engineers from Cathey Construction had conducted their own assessments of the building, Cathey said. Their results indicated that the foundation was not useable.

“There’s no way we can reuse the foundation as it sits today,” said Cathey. “The foundation has problems that are impossible to overcome without dismantling the building.”

Cathey explained that the bricks in the structure are cracking and shifting and that the ground beneath the current foundation may not support a new structure.

Previously the area had been a swamp and for many years the spoils of canal dredging had been put in the area which according to soil borings has made the ground unstable for the first 15 feet below the surface.

It’s been a year since the city has seen additional insurance money and Cathey insisted that the insurance adjustors were simply dragging out the claim in hopes that the city would get frustrated and quit fighting for additional money.

He told the council that his biggest fear was that if the Parker house was torn down, the insurance company would consider the claim closed and no additional monies would be paid.

“We have to dot our I’s and cross our T’s before we put that building in a dumpster,” said Cathey.

Previously, Cathey had provided a bid that included the costs of improving the foundation and rebuilding on the existing structure, but Councilwoman Tanya Castro asked to see numbers on the cost of a new structure.

“The insurance company called the building a ‘total loss,’” said Castro. “We need to move forward.”

Castro said that after comparing the bottom lines, she’d be better informed to make a final decision on how to proceed.

The project has been at a standstill for two years and Cathey was eager for the council to provide some direction.

An executive meeting to review the costs will be scheduled for early October.