City Hall fixes too costly

“We’re not going to spend millions on it. That is not good stewardship of taxpayer dollars”
Andy Ouriel
Feb 4, 2014

 

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for those recently elected, commissioners this past week toured City Hall to witness first-hand how inefficient and outdated it truly is.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.

Comments

reader

Finally some commissioners with the backbone to take action.

doppleganger

So they are going to want more money from taxpayers for the new building, Sandusky Schools wants a new building at the tune of an 8 mill + school levy in the fall. Where are we taxpayers supposed to get the money? My boss won't give me a raise - I asked already. No raise. My gas bill is going to go up, grocery prices continue to go up, my home insurance went up $200/yr. Property taxes went up. I think I am going to quit my job and go on welfare. I can't keep working so I can just give my money away because some bureaucrat wants a new building.

grandmasgirl

I agree. I see some of the schools that were supposed to be unusable, but they are still being used for other things. People in high positions need to start conserving. If city hall is not usable, it is because it wasn't maintained. The same for the schools.

JERRY from SANDUSKY

I went to Sycamore school and the school was 80 years old then why does the Police Department think that they need a better one and they've only been there 55 years I watch it being built a good Built Police station. Hey everybody wants a new Taj Mahal the police the fire department the schools you people are insane take the money from all these over paid executives in Sandusky.

reader

How do you people even know what it will cost?

At one time there was a plan afloat for the city hall to be relocated at no cost to taxpayers....the proceeds from the sale of the present site ( and Tim, no, we can't afford to mow more grass ) plus the money the municipal court has accumulated to remodel or move, plus support from an anonymous donor.

Give it a chance, folks. Let's see what the commissioners can come up with.

Darkhorse

If we have money to move city hall, we have money for other things like fixing the streets in town and stop cutting our services. Everyone thinks that moving city hall will fix everything. They said that with the marina and it is one big financial hole the city has dug themselves into.

Scannerman

Why are we not exploring the option of moving into the county building at Columbus and Washington Row? The offer was made, and it would be a lot less expensive, at least for the short term

The Bizness

You are right! The city as plenty of options, and decisions need to be made.

Man of the Republic

Lets think about this rationally. Lets take the County up on their offer and lease out space in the County Building downtown. Lets sell the waterfront property, which should catch upwards of a million. Lets use that money as seed money for a new building project. I would think the 3 million is a fair price for a new building wherever they choose to build. Probably the best way forward.

Licorice Schtick

The idea is fundamentally sound, but the problems with the old building itself are overblown. It is durably built for long life and economical operation, and structurally sound. Windows, outside doors and HVAC all need to be modernized, and the roof system has been neglected.

The amount of space occupied per person is absurd because the current city hall is drowning in obsolete disorganized paper records because city hall is understaffed and management is incompetent to update the systems and reconfigure the office space. Moving to a new space will fix that only temporaliy, or not at all.

Worries about cost overruns in renovation is silly; the risk as just as bad or worse with the alternatives. (Remember the service complex?) Fixing the old building will cost less, but there are several good alternatives (and plenty of bad ones.) The main problem is that cities everywhere are strapped for cash due to a stupid political climate. We need to either fix the old building or do something else. If we can't figure out what something else we can afford (and we should not ignor the risk of choosing something really bad) we have no choice but to fix the old building. Continuing to do nothing is the worst possible outcome.

In any event, we should be updating systems, reconfiguring offices for better efficiency and sorting out the disorganized mess.

DGMutley

100 percent on the money!

T. A. Schwanger

##

I'm going to guess the dollar figure of $6 million was given to the Sandusky Register and is not a misprint..

Five years ago, during the Marina District Project fiasco, the dollar figure to revamp City Hall was $2 million. Today the cost is $6 million--inflation at it's finest--or another attempt at convincing the taxpayer of the need to move City Hall BACK downtown.

I, along with 4 other Sandusky residents, tagged along on the tour of the City Building mentioned in this article. We all pretty much agreed--there is nothing we were shown which could not be fixed. In fact we were shown many of the upgrades performed at City Hall in recent years.

The Bizness

Mr. Murray does not agree with you.

That building is a dump, and needs to be torn down or completely overhauled.

Just look at it from the exterior and you can see that it is obsolete, it isn't made out of blocks of stone.

Why not sell that property, and then build new where Sandusky Cabinets is being torn down?

slightthroat212

@ TASchwanger: Is there another reason you don't want to see this building sold or a newer faclitly built? Perhaps tearing it down is in everyone's best interest so something new can be installed. Build where the parking lot is now and then tear down the old building and relocate the tennis courts and skateboard park on the other side when the building is completed.

T. A. Schwanger

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@ Slightthroat.

The answer to your question is simple--there is no NEED to do so. Research Danbury, across the bay from Sandusky, and you'll see their governing body is revamping their government offices, in similar fashion as Sandusky, at a fraction of the cost--$300,000.

Also be advised, there is absolutely no plan to build a new City Hall near the present location. The plan is to relocate BACK (emphasis added) downtown in the name of "economic development".

A little history: 1975,1990,2005 and 2014 all have one thing in common: Ill conceived attempts at relocating City Hall back downtown.

In the 2014 case, one idea being discussed is to move some of the City offices to the downtown County Building (a 1990 remake idea), some City offices to the City Service Center and a third location for the Police Department. In the 1950s, the current City Building was relocated from downtown for the sake of one stop convenience--which makes a world of sense.

The term "lack of security" keeps coming up as a reason to relocate.
Recent improvements at City Hall include "key pad entry" to each office and a metal detector at the court entrance. If added security is needed, completely separate the Police Department and Court from the rest of the building--an easy task.

The Bizness

Dude, the place is a dump. It won't cost the same as Danbury, but you can keep dreaming of living in these other places you always bring up.

DGMutley

If the Perkins Township Complex is any indication of what we're in for for City Hall, NO THANKS! The Perkins Township Complex is a MONSTROSITY! Go look. Sorry about that.

twosenseworth

I agree that if there's a buyer out there willing to pay the appraised value of $1.7M for the property, then by all means, start the negotiations. If not, the city needs to do what every other responsible property owner does each and every day...that is to provide the necessary maintenance on their property in order to survive comfortably and live within their means. Letting your property depreciate without adding any financial input, with the hope that someday a better option may come along, is not very prudent.

T. A. Schwanger

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@twosenseworth.

Understand, allowing certain municipal property to fall further into decay is part of the plan. The City decision makers have allowed this to happen to the Keller Building, which never was mothballed properly, the Sandusky Bay Pavilion and City Hall. A friend of mine terms this "demolition by decay".

slightthroat212

Time to fish or cut bait. No special interest group or prejudices here but straight up FACT should previal. If this building is so bad, then get rid of it and build something to last for another 60 years or so. If not, stop playing around and fix what needs to be done. With what has been stated, is sounds like it needs to go.

Murray said it is bad enough to go, then it goes. So far, this man has made more progress in a few weeks than his predecessors did in years....yes, years. So start building. If someone wnnts the property.....sell it and run to the bank with the check. We have plenty of water accesses now. Take the money and run.

That figure is really a nice one 1.7 million is a good amount to begin the building. why not consider alternative methods to raise the funds for the balance? Who knows, it might work. Taxing us isn't the ONLY answer to raising money and we all know it.

As for the rest of the nay sayers....perhaps it is time for you to get on board and start thinking GOOD thoughts for awhile and start thinking FUTURE Sandusky and not OLD Sandusky. It might be refreshing. Just make sure the new building will be large enough to fit everything for at least 10+ years.

donutshopguy

Has anyone paid attention over the last few years. Approximately 90% of all new building have been generated by an arm of government. Federal,state,county,city,township or schools.

The people making those decisions have no problem spending someone else's money. No more deficit spending unless you have the money to pay for the new facility.