Uinta County Herald | Joss House renovation on hold while city reassesses contractor


EVANSTON — Uinta County Museum Director Kay Rossiter and curator Mary Walberg raised their concerns at the Evanston City Council business session held on July 26. Rossiter and Walberg told council they were frustrated and confused by the actions of Evanston’s director of community development Rocco O’Neill and facilities supervisor Jesse Hawkins.

“Rocco and Jesse have told us to halt all renovations to the Joss House until we receive three offers from contractors,” Rossiter said. “Mary and I volunteered our time for the city to write a grant for the renovation and did all the work. The grant didn’t say we needed three bids and we just want to finish the job so we can open it to the public again. »

Mayor Kent Williams asked O’Neill to respond, and he directed comments back to Hawkins.

Hawkins said: “I gave you all a list with pictures of my concerns. This project started at the end of 2019 and is still not finished. I saw a lack of craftsmanship, lots of paint on the glass, doors and switches. The windows are framed without insulation and if you paint now the paint will not last due to weathering. I’m just unhappy with the job.

Hawkins said the city received an offer from Rand Newiger, who is Walberg’s husband, but said they wanted multiple offers. He said he got two more offers and was getting one more. Hawkins said he just wanted the job done right. The city’s fire code requires window insulation, and Hawkins said interior design isn’t his concern, it’s quality workmanship.

Also, Hawkins said that when he spoke to Newiger, the contractor said he wanted to do metal on the roofs of the porches and Hawkins said he wasn’t sure it would work and the GPO plastic would be better.

“We’re not done.” says Walberg. “The paint stains will be cleaned and the doors painted.”

O’Neill added to Hawkins’ concerns.

“Our concern is that this is a municipal facility,” O’Neill said. “Jesse has expressed his concerns. We are not satisfied with the work that is done in the end and we want to protect the city by asking for competitive bids.

Walberg said: “We at the museum have been stewards of Joss House for 25 years; we organized the visits and maintained the exhibitions. We haven’t finished the job and any concerns expressed by Jesse will be resolved if we can just finish the job. I have 35 years of curating experience and my husband Ran has 45 years of contract experience and is fired. I just don’t understand why we can’t finish the job.

It’s important that the interior represent an original Joss House, Walberg said. She added that they had now placed a million dollar display in the center of the building and had to cover the windows in order to protect the artifacts. She explained that work has been slow due to the process of writing and waiting for grants, the COVID-19 pandemic, and waiting for supplies and materials.

“We’ve spent $31,000 so far on the work and next month we should hear about another grant to finish the interior,” Rossiter said. “We have to finish the outside first before we finish the inside anyway as long as the weather is good. We don’t understand why we were closed. We tried to do what Jesse told us to do. Our phone calls to Rocco and Jesse are not returned. We want to finish the exterior now, so when people walk past it looks good.

Williams said he was concerned the city had put the Joss House on hold due to other demands; but now that the issues have been brought to their attention, the town has some concerns.

“I know it’s an emotional situation and there are different points of view. I agree the communication should have been better,” Williams said. “This is a municipal facility and we just want to make sure everything is done right for insurance purposes. Kay, you and I are going to sit down together and discuss this. I’ll call you and set a time.


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