The amount spent is a small percentage of the estimated $1.5 million cost for a project the city has been working on for more than a year.
“Back when we had the tornado on the 30th of January, Pat Crook, our city manager at the time, was going to let bids out, or the request for proposals out, for that city hall that day,” said Mayor Evan King. “And of course we had the tornado and of course recuperating from that is what we’ve been doing. And so this city hall renovation is ramping back up. But we do have an architect and contractor lined up, and I’m anticipating those guys mobilizing after the first of the year.”
Though plans had been in place, the renovation project took on greater importance when the roof collapsed in April. City hall is now operating out of a trailer located near the city’s utility payment location on Main Street.
“My understanding is, and I wasn’t here so I don’t have all the history, my understanding is that they were planning on making some improvements to city hall, but then the roof fell in in April and the extent of the damage was such that it was basically a complete redo of the interior,” said interim City Manager Billy Beckett.
King said the renovation project would create a blend of the 19th and 21st centuries at city hall, starting with the building’s original exterior.
“Because what we’re going to do to is take the façade off the city hall and it’s going to go back to the authentic look of the rest of the buildings downtown. You know, city hall is the only one that stands out because it’s the one that’s been modernized, for lack of a better way to put it,” he said. “All of the other private landowners have taken their buildings back to the authentic look of when they were built around the turn of the previous century. But on the inside we’re going to upgrade it. It’s going to have a 19th century façade, is what I like to say, with a 21st century capability on the inside.
“… But we’re looking at putting in a natural gas powered cooling system that’s actually manufactured by Yanmar by their facility in Japan. We’re looking at doing that. I don’t know that that’s been finalized yet, but the savings from a financial standpoint from the figures I’ve seen are astronomical, to use a big adjective. But like I say, I don’t know if that’s been finalized yet.”
As for the annual SPLOST report itself, Beckett said it was a useful tool for the city in determining where the funds went throughout the year, and for holding government accountable for citizens’ tax dollars. He added Crook had budgeted approximately $87,000 in SPLOST funds that will carry forward into the 2014 SPLOST.
“We need it, especially when you’ve got somebody like me in here on an interim basis, and then you’ve got a manager coming in later,” Beckett said of the report. “Absolutely you’re going to want to know where your money has gone, what it’s been allocated to and [be] responsible to the voters, of course, for credibility purposes. You know, if they’re going to approve SPLOST they’re going to know that you’ve spent the money on what was approved during the referendum. So there are a lot of valid reasons for advertising that.”
Looking ahead to the 2014 SPLOST, King believed the council would tackle issues relating to infrastructure improvements of water and sewer lines and repaving roads. He said he expects the council to put together a list of utility lines that need to be replaced, so the repairs can be done before the roads are paved. In some cases, he acknowledged, the city may need to patch roads to keep them usable if a utility project is not feasible in the near future.
“To me — for my standpoint and I’m not speaking for the council, I’m just speaking for me — it’s foolish to go pave a street, knowing that you’ve got problems underneath that street that you’ve got to dig up. So it’s a chicken and the egg concept, so to speak, which one do you do first? My view is, let’s fix the problems underneath, so when we do pave the streets that they’ll last us for a long time,” King said.