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City Hall fixes too costly

Andy Ouriel • Feb 4, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Sandusky city commissioners seem dead set against investing more taxpayer dollars into an old building.

“City Hall is a grossly inadequate facility,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said.

Murray made the blunt statement shortly after trekking through the almost 60-year-old building.

Intended for those recently elected, commissioners this past week toured City Hall to witness first-hand how inefficient and outdated it truly is.    “In order to appreciate the problems with City Hall, you need to really see it” Murray said. “We’re not going to spend millions on it. That is not good stewardship of taxpayer dollars”

Hypothetically, if the investment did occur, city taxpayers would spend at least $6.7 million for necessary upgrades to bring the facility up to present-day building standards.

And if builders discover any unforeseen structural deficiencies upon renovations, the amount will surely swell well beyond this estimate.

“This building is full of surprises, and the moment you decide to renovate a building, all of your budget numbers go out the window” commissioner Dick Brady said.

The city’s budget, projected to total roughly $16.3 million in 2014, can’t spare any funds for building improvements. The budget’s already faced with a $1.1 million shortfall, calling for many cuts and at least four layoffs in the fire department.

Sandusky chief building official George Poulos reiterated his longtime stance on City Hall: build an entirely new structure as opposed to effectively wasting money, piecemeal, or otherwise, upgrading or renovating the Meigs Street building.

Poulos said he can build a completely new City Hall for about half the estimated cost of $6.7 million. He oversaw construction for Perkins Township’s new government complex —housing administration, building, highway and police operations — totaling $3.3 million. The township facility debuted almost a year ago.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Poulos, referencing spending more money on City Hall. “I feel uncomfortable spending upwards of $6 million on something that has old bones”

The big question

The conversation about whether or not to move out of City Hall has occurred for at least 25 years.

Commissioners past and present, however, have been wishy-washy on making any decisions, despite a growing consensus the building’s not worth saving.

But the new commission appears ready to get beyond the talk concerning City Hall’s future.

“I don’t know what the obvious answer is” Murray said. “In a perfect world, we borrow the money at historically low interest rates and build a small and more efficient facility that benefits the entire needs of the police department and municipal court. But we need to start some conversation”

Sandusky Municipal Court Judge Erich O’Brien would appreciate some decisive action.

For years, he’s pleaded with commissioners to act on City Hall’s future, whether it be moving elsewhere or renovating.

O’Brien’s courtroom underlines many deficiencies in City Hall today, including how his quarters leak and lack proper security.Furthermore, O’Brien’s courtroom is segregated, with offices separated from one another.

“We have waited for over 15 years for this,” O’Brien said. “Anything would be better”

The waterfront property could fetch a nice haul if sold. The Erie County auditor’s website values City Hall’s address, 222 Meigs St., at $1.7 million.

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