The Mayor’s Commission on a New Government Center and Judicial Building held four simultaneous forums Tuesday to get input from the community about the building’s future.
About 20 people showed up at Government Center, and another 16 at the City Service Center. Less people attended forums at the Frank Chester and Psalmond Road recreation centers.
At each location, citizens were greeted by members of the commission, who presented them with conceptual site studies offering three scenarios: Renovation of the existing tower and wings, renovation of the tower only and total new construction.
They also watched a short video from a tour of the Government Center, which revealed hazardous conditions such as rotting pipes, elevator problems and security concerns.
Architects have estimated that it would cost the city $100, 430, 602 to renovate the tower and two wings (Scenario 1) when demolition, construction and start-date of the project are taken into account. The cost for renovating the tower for judicial purposes and building a new city office building (Scenario 2) would cost $105,417,822. The cost for constructing two new buildings (Scenario 3) would cost $115,506,520.
At the City Service Center, the conceptual drawings were presented by Michael Starr, a partner with 2WR. Citizens in attendance asked questions about costs and the logistics of the project.
Matthew Chan, a local landlord, said he goes to the Government Center on a regular basis and is familiar with many of the issues. But he believes many citizens will be concerned about the price tag associated with replacing the 46-year-old facility.
“It’s a big ticket item, no doubt about it,” said Starr. “... There’s no cheap option. And I think one of the things that this forum provides is that opportunity to get a better understanding, if you don’t use the building or visit it very often, of what some of those conditions are that would necessitate a significant renovation and or possible new construction.”
Betsy Covington, of the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, asked about the impact that demolishing the building would have on the landfill.
Starr said he’s not a landfill expert, but “just in general, these are concrete structures, so there’s recycling that could happen with that and can be reused. Any structural seal could also be recycled, aluminum can be recycled.”
City Manager Lisa Goodwin said any additional construction/demolition material would go out to the landfill.
“It would be a slight impact, but not very much,” she said.
When asked the turn-around time for the project, Starr said the plans have escalations built in for five years for each of the scenarios, all the way to 2023, amounting to about $10,000,000 to $11,000,000 for each project.
Michael King, CCG TV, asked what would happen to the offices and the courts in the process of demolishing and rebuilding if that should occur.
Goodwin said city officials might have to look for property that they could lease.
“But we would first of all look at the current properties that we have,” she said. “It may be that some of those spaces like at the annex, the conference room that we have, we may have to put up some offices or something to make room for individuals to be there. It’s just something that we have to look at.”
Citizens were asked to fill out comment cards so their input could be included in a report that the commission is preparing for Columbus Council. Mayor Tomlinson has said she hopes to make a recommendation to councilors sometime around October.
Councilor Mike Baker was among those who attended the meeting. He said the Government Center has many hazardous conditions. But he hasn’t reached any conclusions about what should be done with the property.
“I’ve just been following along like all the citizens have,” he said. “Something needs to be done, but we’ll have to see what form it takes. We still have a long way to go. The funding will be the challenge, and we’ll have to see how it all comes together.”