Should the city renovate the first floor of the Blue Building, renovate the entire structure, or level it?
During a Safety Committee meeting Monday night, Aldermen Mike Neal and Rick Barnes voted to recommend for the Building and Grounds Committee to consider obtaining a cost analysis to renovate the main floor, as well as any necessary work to the remaining floors, so the city can compare that to the cost for building a new structure.
“I don’t agree with it, but I’ll vote for it in order to get moving forward,” said Barnes. “Maybe some day we can make a decision on it. I would prefer renovating the entire building.”
Building and Grounds Committee members were not as harmonious. Alderman Ben Newman made a motion to accept the Safety Committee’s recommendation with the cost of the analysis not to exceed $10,000, which failed due to lack of a second from Bonner.
Not exceeding $10,000 means the measure will not go before the full board. Bonner says he wants board approval.
“You can make that motion, but I won’t second it,” said Bonner. “What I will go along with is taking this measure to the full board for its consideration. Let’s let the board vote on this.”
The measure was sent to the full board for its consideration. Prior to that decision, officials voiced their opinions.
Neal says he is in favor of renovating the main floor, if that’s more financially feasible than a new building for the police department.
“I know this is kind of a controversial subject right now on where we should put the police department,” said Neal. “Should we build new or should we use the Blue Building? I have to think there is some value to a roof, walls and foundation already there that can be used to offset the cost of a new construction. I think we owe it to the public to at least do this analysis.”
AEI Architects, Engineers and Planners provided officials months ago with a cost estimate on a new structure. A new 12,000-square-foot building would cost between $1.3 million and $1.5 million. At $1.5 million, the cost would be $125 per square foot.
In 2008, AEI walked through the building and provided a renovation cost estimate that was included in an appraisal done by Willim Haston Sr. at the city’s request. AEI’s estimate was slightly more than $86 per square foot, or $3.39 million, to renovate the entire building. However, the cost was not broken down by floors.
Mayor Jimmy Haley says he met with developer Jewell Hale, owner of a local construction company, and he was quoted at between $40 and $60 per square foot for renovating the Blue Building.
“He said yes, there is quite a bit of value to already having a structure with roof, walls, floor,” said Haley. “He said renovation would be in the range of $40 to $60 a square foot. He said the building already has a parking lot and there is landscaping. All that would have to be done on a new site on top of the cost of constructing a new building.”
The main building is estimated to have 39,260 square feet. At $40 and $60 per square foot, the cost for renovation would range from $1.57 million to $2.35 million.
Bonner says he spoke to Peter Metts, owner of AEI, and Waymon Hale, owner of a local construction company and brother to Jewell Hale, and he was told renovating one floor at a time would not be feasible.
“They said with the building as bad as it is, it could not be fixed one floor at a time,” said Bonner. “It’s not feasible to do that. You need to renovate the basement and then go up.”
Waymon, unlike his brother, preferred building new over renovating the old, says Bonner.
“Waymon said it could cost up to $4 million,” said Bonner. “He said if you are going to spend that kind of money, why not build new and be done with it rather than renovate an old building that’s not worth it. I think the police department deserves a new building. If we have to tear the Blue Building down so the new structure faces that way, then so be it.”
Neal pointed out that the city has conflicting information, even from two brothers.
Haley added, “Jewell went through the building. Waymon did not.”
When asked his opinion, Police Chief Bryan Denton said his department has some concerns about the reduced square footage, from 12,000 in a new building to under 10,000 on the main floor of the Blue Building, and he prefers a new building, but his department will do what the city tells it to do and “smile like opossums doing it.”
The measure will be before the board May 27.