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Columbus Council moving ahead on what do about aging government center. Here’s more.

Looking Back: Before Columbus Government Center, domed courthouse graced the property

The Muscogee County Courthouse, built in 1896 for just under $63,500, once stood where the Government Center now stands. Construction of the new government center started in 1972. For a brief period both stood before demolition of the older building.
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The Muscogee County Courthouse, built in 1896 for just under $63,500, once stood where the Government Center now stands. Construction of the new government center started in 1972. For a brief period both stood before demolition of the older building.

Columbus Council finally made steps toward deciding what to do about the 48-year-old government center on Tuesday, voting to initiate a study on how much it would cost to demolish the building and replace it with two new buildings and a parking garage.

The vote came after a recommendation by city staff to whittle various options down to two:

Construct separate judicial and administrative buildings on the old site.

At least one of the new buildings would be constructed on the site, with the option for the other one to be constructed on a completely new site.

Though council has decided to study the first option, it does not mean they will no longer entertain other options, which include:

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.

A new site for both judicial and administration facilities and parking to support those facilities.

“Its a fluid situation,” Mayor Skip Henderson said Wednesday. “There’s nothing to say that at some point down the road an option they voted down one week could become attractive due to some change in circumstances. It’s going to be an interesting process but the council so far is doing a good job making some tough decisions.”

Councilors said during discussion Tuesday that they would like to examine the cost of completely renovating the government center, but no official action was taken.

“I anticipate that they’ll try to incorporate it into a vote in the next meeting,” Henderson said.

Narrowing down the options would help keep spending down, Henderson said.

“If they feel like they need to see more than those two examined a little deeper, then that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “But the preference would be to hold it to as few options as possible, ideally two.”

Who will conduct the study and how much it will cost still has to be decided, but the city will utilize the $1 million in bonds issued by the Columbus Building Authority last fall that have been earmarked for the planning and engineering of new government buildings.

Council voted in July to declare its intention to ask Muscogee County voters to approve a 1% sales tax to fund the new buildings, among other city projects. That tax could generate a maximum of $350,000,000 over 10 years.

That vote will come next fall, but before then the council must decide on a budget for the new government and judicial centers to present to voters.

A new SPLOST could be on the budget in 2020. The current sales tax in Columbus totals 8% -- that's eight cents on each dollar spent. Here's a breakdown of where those eight pennies go.

Allie Dean is the Columbus city government and accountability reporter for the Ledger, and also writes about new restaurants, developments and issues important to readers in the Chattahoochee Valley. She’s a graduate of the University of Georgia.
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