Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has convened a new advisory commission to study the possibility of building a new government and judicial center.
The new body, called the “Commission on New Government and Judicial Building,” will review existing conditions at the current Government Center located on 10th Street, according to a news release issued by the mayor’s office. The commission will meet over the next several months to compile a report of existing conditions and options moving forward.
“This building has served us well for nearly fifty years,” Tomlinson said in the news release. “It is tired and it shows. It is difficult to enter. The elevator waits are interminable and can’t be improved further.
“The heating and air systems are shot,” she continued. “We have a trailer-sized portable generator that we too often rely on, which takes up much needed parking spaces. There is no sprinkler system and the stairwells are not contained, meaning they can easily fill with smoke. This building no longer serves our needs. We must acknowledge that fact and determine what our options are for moving forward.”
The Commission will begin meeting in February, with an anticipated report to Council and the citizens in the Fall of 2017. Those named to the 23-member commission include local city officials, ministers, Chamber of Commerce representatives, nonprofit administrators, grassroots organizers and concerned citizens.
“The Mayor envisions a broad-based, electronic survey and community forums in order to garner citizen and stakeholder input, in addition to technical reports, cost and financing options, tours and speakers on subjects relevant to the commission’s considerations,” according to the release.
The Government Center was built from 1969 to 1970 and was first occupied in 1971, according to information provided by the mayor’s office. The building houses offices for the mayor, city manager and city attorney, as well as administrative offices such as IT and Finance. It also is the location of offices for judges, county and municipal clerks, courtrooms, and the offices of the District Attorney, Sheriff, and Marshal.
“The Government Center welcomes many hundreds of citizens a day for jury duty, judicial hearings, marriage certificates and ceremonies, and other government services,” the release said. “The mayor has selected a 23-person citizen and stakeholder commission, which will be supported by city staff members with expertise in fields related to the subjects to be considered.”
In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, Tomlinson said the future of the Government Center is a topic that has been discussed plenty over the years, and there have been many proposals. She said the commission will review the various options with a fresh perspective.
Tomlinson said she doesn’t know what the commission will do, but one question it may consider is whether there should be one or two buildings.
“There are state laws that apply to judicial buildings, which limit access,” she said. “A lot of people feel like restricted access to the county seat, to the hall of government, is offensive to them.
“They feel like they should be able to access their city hall without having to strip down, for instance, and going into a judicial center people feel a little differently,” she said. “I think we need to have a conversation as a community about whether it’s worth having two separate buildings.
“... I don’t come into it with any preconceived notions,” she said. “I’ve heard pitches on both sides.”
When asked where the money would come from for such a project, the mayor said there are many funding sources to consider, from bonds to money that may be available for government buildings.
“We just need to have our finance folks look at all of these potential avenues of revenue to do this,” she said.