Posted 6/09/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
With details in hand on two new options to address city hall space, Tioga City Commissioners last week decided they need input from the Tioga chamber and the Economic Development Corporation before making a choice.
With plans for construction of a new city hall now all but dead, commissioners voted June 1 to terminate the contract it had with architects who were developing drawings for the state-of-the-art new city hall.
“I feel we need to terminate the contract with them so they’re not waiting to see what we’re going to do,” said Mayor Drake McClelland.
The city paid $40,000 to the architect for the services rendered so far. The drawings could still be used should the city decide to pursue a new facility in the future.
The previously proposed $12 million city hall would satisfy population growth projections that were expecting some 8,000 people to call the city home within several years.
Now projections anticipate far less growth and less money from the state for such projects. As a result, Tioga is exploring other options, since the current city hall isn’t adequate to satisfy existing needs.
The commission heard presentations for rough drafts of two proposals for alternatives to a new city hall last month, and the presenters returned last week to provide proposals with more accurate cost figures.
Matt Hutchins of Roers Investments proposes leasing the city space in a building north of the Cash Wise grocery store.
Hutchins presented the plan as the best cost-savings option so that the city spends as little as possible to satisfy its existing needs until a new city hall is complete.
The plan accommodates about 4,000 square feet of office space, as well as a commission chambers. Under the plan, the police department would remain at the current downtown location.
The build out cost for the interior of non-police offices would be $180,000, and Hutchins proposed that Roars would pay $30,000 of that.
The rent would then be $6,343 per month, which would come to about $76,114 per year. The city would pay $378,000 for three years at the temporary location.
Hutchins argues his plan will leave the city with more money to spend on a new city hall project, which would ultimately benefit the downtown district when the project is complete.
“I do believe this plan will strengthen downtown,” Hutchins said.
Hutchins also pointed out that since the plan is a public-private partnership, no bid process is necessary to make it happen. And it would be compliant with American with Disabilities Act and have plenty of parking.
However, commissioners have some reservations. The plan is dependent on the city eventually building the new city hall and doing so within a few years. If the city forgoes the project entirely, then they will pay $150,000 to build out commercial space they will ultimately abandon, on top of the rent.
“At this point we don’t know if it’s going to be three years,” said Commissioner John Grubb.
Hutchins said the company is willing to extend the lease in six-month increments should the city need more time for a new city hall to be built.
Police Administrator Jeff Spivey offered a plan to refurbish the building currently occupied by Kick N Fit. Besides being a long-term solution to the city’s office needs, Spivey said the refurbished building would provide facilities for the police department.
Current facilities for the department, Spivey explained, are inadequate. There’s no discretion in the booking process. With no holding cells, suspects are brought in through the front door.
“Currently, they have to be restrained by a holding bench,” Spivey said.
The city would still need to refurbish the existing buildings downtown in order to satisfy those needs, regardless of which plan the city pursues.
If the city were to refurbish the Kick N Fit building, Spivey explained, it provides office space for all the city departments. The surrounding buildings, such as the current city hall building, would be demolished for parking space.
Spivey said the building would be ADA compliant and provide plenty of parking. He also said it would keep city business operating downtown as an anchor for the local business district.
The estimated cost for the plan is $2.2 million to $2.3 million. While much more expensive than leasing space from Roars Investments, Spivey said the city won’t need to build a new facility anytime soon.
“This is not a three or five year building,” Spivey said.
Inspectors still need to ensure the steel structure of the building is sound. If not, the entire building would need to be replaced. That would raise the cost to $3.3 million.
The costs did not include paving the parking lot.
Spivey said, based on input from the contractors who developed the estimates, construction would take eight months.
The commission took no actions on the plans, but requested the plans be presented to the Economic Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce before the city chooses a direction.