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New Driver Center stuck in neutral
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The lease agreement between the city and state for moving the Driver Testing Center into City Hall has been placed on hold, again.
“We still don’t know, really, how much this is going to cost,” said Alderman Steve Harvey during Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. “If we pass this, we are committed to doing it no matter how much it costs. I’m in favor of tabling this until the next meeting, until we can get some more information on what it costs. We’ve been saying that for a while now. Do we need to pay the architect to find out what this is really going to cost? Is that the next thing we need to do?”
City administrator Bill Brock says the architect can give the city a cost estimate but not an actual cost.
“It’s like everything else the city does,” said Brock. “You pay an architect to generate plans and specifications and he gives you a good ballpark figure on what the estimate will be, just like you did on the Civic Center renovation.”
Harvey added, “All we have so far is square foot cost to remodel from $25 to $75 a square foot.”
The city has agreed to spend $13,075 for AEI Architects, Engineers and Planners president Peter Metts to generate plans, specifications and oversee the project for renovating the basement of City Hall to fit the needs of the state.
“We know what we are spending on an architect and we’ve agreed to spend up to $50,000 but we are certainly not going to be able to do it for that,” said Harvey, of the remaining $36,925. “It seems like this is getting to be a little more and a little more all the time. I’m not against this. I just wouldn’t feel right about passing this now without knowing what we are going to spend.”
Mayor Jimmy Haley says the state is waiting for the green light.
“The state is expecting us to move forward with this,” Haley said.
Officials passed on first read a lease agreement with the state. Second read was placed on hold until the city receives a cost estimate on renovation. It approved the expenditure of up to $50,000 to renovate the basement.
City attorney Tim Pirtle says the city is obligated to pay more if the lease passes second read.
“If this lease is approved on second reading, it will be a legally binding commitment,” Pirtle says. “The terms of the lease are very plain. If the parties enter into the agreement, the city is obligated to build the space out and there’s no maximum price of cost provided within the lease.”
Alderman Ryle Chastain agreed with Harvey’s concerns.
“I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Harvey,” Chastain said. “I’m in support of this. I think the community wants it. I do think it would be reckless on our part to just say OK without having an idea on cost. It could be $100,000 or $200,000. I understand that it’s probably not going to be that much, but it could be. Like counsel has said, if we pass this and it’s $200,000 we are stuck even though it’s way over budget.”
The motion by Harvey to table the measure passed unanimously by Haley, Vice Mayor Ben Newman, and Aldermen Mike Neal, Jimmy Bonner, Chastain and Harvey. Alderman Everett Brock was absent.