McMinnville officials are moving forward in an effort to relocate the Driver Testing Center into the basement of City Hall as the cost to do that continues to climb.
Under consideration Tuesday night was a proposed lease agreement from the state. A measure to begin negotiations passed 5-1. Mayor Jimmy Haley, Vice Mayor Ben Newman, and Aldermen Ryle Chastain, Steve Harvey and Everett Brock voted in favor of negotiations, while Aldermen Mike Neal voted against it. Alderman Jimmy Bonner abstained.
“I’m not going to support this, mainly because I think this is a state-provided service and we as a board need to focus on things we are required to provide and we could spend this money in a much better way,” said Neal.
An estimate of at least $50,000 was given last month by city administrator Bill Brock to cover the state’s request to upgrade doors, lights, paint the entire room, remove carpet, and place tile on the floor.
Brock said the state wants its own HVAC unit separate from the rest of the building and the additional cost for that is unknown at this time.
“Right now the basement is being heated and cooled by the controls of upstairs in the bank,” Brock said. “In the contract, they want their own unit. There are more numbers to put in that. I really haven’t seen a list of what the state wants so I don’t know what else to include.”
The lease agreement is a starting point for negotiations. Until the numbers are known and the city agrees to the terms, the agreement is nonbinding.
Alderman Brock objected to a clause in the contract that gives the state legal dibs on the main floor.
“I don’t have a problem voting with this right now but I do want to see the numbers,” said Brock. “I want to see the one-time numbers, which we talked about being $50,000 or more, and the monthly numbers. The other thing that really concerns me is the right-of-first offer. Let’s assume Regions Bank takes a hike and we want to move the third floor down to the first floor. I don’t want to give it to them. I have a lot of unknowns right now but I’m not going to be the guy to kill it at this point and time.”
The city is providing the state with use of the basement free of charge. A right-of-first offer on the main floor means the city must offer the space to the state first if it becomes available.
The lease agreement with Regions Bank has three more years, said Haley, and interest has been shown to extending that contract.
Newman reminded board members the proposed contract is to begin negotiations and everything within it is up for discussion and change.
Bonner expressed concern about the condition of the building’s elevator.
“I’m concerned about the elevator,” he said. “About twice a month the elevator is tore up. If we put a double load or triple load of use on that elevator and it breaks more often, we’ll have to replace it. If you get people down there and they can’t use the stairs because they are in wheelchairs or something, what are we going to do? That’s my main concern.”
Haley added, “We need to replace it anyway.”
Officials have until May 31, at the latest said Haley, to enter into a contract with the state to keep the center in McMinnville.