Council discusses renovation costs

Donelle Pardee Whiting

City officials are expected to decide if they will purchase the former Washington District Library on Walnut at their Sept. 15 meeting.

During the city council committee of the whole meeting Monday night, officials received a report and cost breakdown from city administrator Bob Morris.

According to the preliminary agreement, the city has 120 days to make a decision on the $251,501 purchase price.

The deadline for a final decision is Sept. 17.

City leaders put in a bid for the 80 year-old building in May.

The library board put the building up for sale just prior to moving the main library to its new home in Five Points Washington in October.

Morris said the reason the city is looking into purchasing the building is to allow the Washington Police Department to have some elbow room, by moving city offices into the former library building.

Currently, the city’s administration offices are on the upper floor of City Hall, located on Jefferson Street.

The police department is housed in the lower level.

Police Chief Jim Kuchenbecker said the police department is long overdue for more space.

The current police department has a small hallway for a lobby, and the officers do not have a specific room to interview witnesses.

Morris said city offices are just as crowded. City clerk Carol Moss currently shares her office space with boxes of city records.

Morris presented council members with a breakdown of expenses should they vote to move forward.

Because the basement of the old library building would be used for storage, there would not be a need to spend $50,000 on an elevator.

However, Morris said it would be a good idea to at least know where they could install one at a later date, should they decide there is call for one.

Building inspection costs total $6,130, which includes the phase I environmental survey, asbestos/lead/mold inspection, radon testing, land survey and termite inspection.

The type of asbestos found is not in a state that it must be removed, Morris said. However, “I recommend we have it removed.”

The cost for the removal is $35,000.

Although the building tested high for radon, Morris said the levels should go down to acceptable levels once a new filtration system is installed. If not, he said, it will be $7,500 for remediation.

Building renovation is estimated to be $876,343. Morris said renovation is needed to accommodate the city’s needs.

A fire suppression sprinkler system, at a cost of $42,000, is not mandated by code throughout the building.

However, Morris said, one will need to be installed in the basement to protect stored files and records.

Alderman Jim Gee, Ward IV, said he would prefer the city spend the money to install a full fire suppression sprinkler system throughout the building.

Other items needed right away would be a new computer server, phone system, additional furnishings, parking lot resurfacing and moving expenses.

The preliminary total for the project is about $1.4 million, Morris said.

The city council budgeted for $795,000, leaving $588,974 still needed to complete the project.

The project could be as high as $1.5 million, Morris said, if the city decides to install the elevator, and fire sprinkler right away.

Deferred amounts figured into the higher estimate are $7,500 for radon remediation and $35,000 for landscaping.

Among the projected changes is moving the heating/cooling system off the flat roof, Morris said.

“It is my hope the mechanical room will be in the basement,” he said.

Although council members could not vote on whether to go ahead with the purchase, the consensus is to move forward.

Should the city approve the purchase, Morris said for a short time, there will not be a lot of money left over for other projects not already included in the city’s current capitol improvement program.

“The CIP is sacred,” Morris said, adding that money designated for those projects would remain in the CIP.

“There will not be money for discretionary spending,” Morris said, “primarily for personnel for a few years.”

However, Morris said the city can easily manage within the current revenue strain.

“It is manageable,” he added.

The city cannot afford to build new for either the administrative offices or the police department, Morris said.

Mayor Gary Manier said first and foremost, city hall needs to get into the library and out of the police department’s way.

He added that in order to better absorb the cost of remodeling city hall for police use, it could be done in phases.

Alderman Al Howerter added that would give the department time to plan.

The key issue for expanding policing functions upstairs is the dispatch station, Morris said.

He estimated it would cost about $500,000 to remodel the upstairs of the current city hall for police use.

Alderman Dave Dingledine said it was “a no-brainer. We have to go forward. The money (to move) pales in comparison to buying a new building.

Gee said he likes the idea of using a historic building in town rather than see it deteriorate or be torn down.

Alderman Scott Clanin said his only concern is adequate parking.

Morris said there would not be space in the lot for customer cars.

However, he added, there is parking on Elm Street, which is usually where library patrons would park.

The council is expected to vote on the issue at its Monday meeting.