While Columbus Council decides what to do with Government Center, more improvements planned

Columbus officials continue to weigh where and how new government facilities will be constructed, and the city’s mayor hopes the available options will be cut in half.

Columbus mayor Skip Henderson said Tuesday in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer that he hopes the four options currently being considered for the city’s decaying government center can be cut down to two by the end of July.

“I think you’ll see the city manager’s officer — along with my office — he and I will sit down and review the information that people have given us during these public meetings and probably come in with a couple of recommendations trying to whittle it down to two,” he said. “I’d like for it to.”

Henderson’s comments came following a Tuesday council meeting where brief updates on improvements to the 48-year-old building and discussion about plans for the future center were discussed. They were:

Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge said that plans for stairwell pressurization and fire alarm system replacement at the current complex are being designed. The city is expected to solicit contract bids for the project in August, and construction is slated to begin in September.

The center’s current sprinkler system is also being reviewed.

The city may soon approve a construction manager-at-risk process to build the new center. The method, among other things, sets a guaranteed maximum price that leaves the firm responsible for any additional cost, reports The Balance, a small business website.

While he’d like for the options to be narrowed relatively soon, Henderson said that if a member of the Columbus Council wanted to take another look at an option, that is possible.

“That’s not etched in stone,” he said. “If a council member decides they want to take another look at another option, you know, we’ll bring it back. But we’ve got to start working our way towards some type of agreement of what we are going to do.”

Henderson has previously expressed his support for funding the new center through a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). He said in previous interviews that the council has expressed interest in asking the public for a new SPLOST when the current education SPLOST ends.

The debate over the fate of the current Government Center on 10th Street started in January 2017 when then-mayor Teresa Tomlinson created the Commission on New Government and Judicial Building to review conditions at the center and present options for moving forward.

“This building has served us well for nearly fifty years,“ Tomlinson said at the time. “(But) this building no longer serves our needs.“

In recent times, the complex has dealt with a series of issues, including damaging flooding.

Now, the council and Henderson are looking at these options:

Option 1 would consist of a complete demolition of the wings and parking garage to provide for a new judicial center on the existing site. The tower would be renovated for city administration and a new parking structure would be created on the site.

Option 2 would consist of a complete demolition of the tower, wings and parking garage and provide for a new judicial center, new administration building and new parking deck to be constructed on the site.

Option 3 would consist of a complete demolition of the tower, wings and parking garage and provide for construction of a new judicial center and parking garage on existing site. A building and parking structure for city administration would be constructed on a new site.

Option 4 would consist of a new site for both judicial and administration facilities and parking to support those facilities.

Officials estimate around 300,000 square feet will be needed to replace the complex.

To do it the “right way” and make sure the city gets feedback about using the funds for a government center, a decision needs to come soon, Henderson said.

“We’re losing any wiggle room we had,” he said. “We need to go ahead and get moving. . .Ultimately, it’s up to the council.”

Ledger-Enquirer archives were used in this report.

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