Since the 1970s, two structures have dominated the skyline of this whole stretch of the Chattahoochee Valley: The Aflac Building on Wynnton Road and the Columbus Government Center on 10th Street. As high-rise structures in Columbus go, Aflac might stand alone before too much longer, at least for a while.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has put together a 23-member citizens commission to study conditions at the aging and in some ways obsolete downtown center, and (to infer from the panel’s title) consider a replacement. The Commission on New Government and Judicial Building, as it is called in a mayor’s office news release, will begin meeting next month with a view toward presenting a report to the mayor and council this fall.
The Government Center is one of those midsize-city structures that can’t be ignored. It’s hard to be indifferent to it; people tend to consider it either a city centerpiece or an eyesore, a view that probably depends more than anything else on one’s attitude toward late ‘60s-early ‘70s architectural styles.
But the need to reassess its function now is not about issues of esthetics or taste. As Tomlinson points out in her official announcement of the study committee, the building’s thermal systems are “shot,” the absence of sprinklers creates a fire hazard, parking is a perpetual problem, elevator waiting times are “interminable” and it’s hard to get into the building, especially with the increased need for security. After almost 50 years, “it is tired and it shows.”
But even with the construction of the City Services Center on Macon Road, the administrative space the Government Center provides is still very necessary. It includes the offices of top city and judicial officials, as well as law enforcement headquarters and courtrooms.
Obviously, any actual purchase/renovation/construction of a new government and judicial building is years away. Then we can start arguing about what to name it.
Are we done yet?
Columbus Council voted Tuesday, without discussion (what was there to say?), to pay the latest round of attorney fees for former Sheriff John Darr, whose lawsuit against the city was dropped by his successor, Sheriff Donna Tompkins.
The city is required by law to pay not just its own legal costs but also Darr’s, because the sheriff is a constitutional officer. (The same applied to former Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce, who was also defeated for reelection.)
The latest installment came to about $53,000. All told, the city has paid more than $2 million in legal fees in the Darr and Pierce suits, and one filed jointly by Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop, who are not constitutional officers and are therefore not entitled to city-paid legal fees. But the city’s legal defense against that suit, as it with the other two, has come at public expense.
We’d like to hope this was the proverbial “other shoe” dropping. But this monster seems to have centipede feet.