• Richard Hyatt

It's only an additional $2 million...

A $5 million price tag suddenly turned into $7 mil.

This strange discussion began with talk about an abandoned building on Veterans Parkway. The Columbus Consolidated Government bought the former Virginia College site in November with the announced intent of using it as an office building.

Key city leaders changed their mind. They began to push and prod Columbus Council to support a $5 million renovation project that would transform that building into a new home for state and local agencies that have cared for clients in the Health and Human Services Building on Comer Avenue for the past 23 years.

Monday — on the eve of that important political decision — council members learned that last minute projections now indicate the cost of that $5 million scheme might be closer to $7 million. Officials on both sides of the issue now find themselves in a political quandary.

One way or another, a vote is expected at Tuesday’s meeting of Columbus Council. The gavel sounds at 5:30 p.m. in City Services Building located at 3111 Citizens Way.

At the council meeting two weeks ago, City Manager Isaiah Hugley was emphatic that a vote had to be taken by Jan. 28. The 10-year lease on the HHS building runs out on the 30th of June and the city must be ready to move into a new home.

Hugley supported the move to 5601 Veterans Parkway from the beginning. Council did not learn of the plan until after a called executive session that followed the regular meeting on Dec. 10. Council voted to buy the former Virginia College property. The cost was $2.5 million for the vacant building and another $2.5 million for a bond issue that would cover its restoration.

From the beginning, some local contractors questioned the city’s estimate and timetable for renovating the Virginia College site. Late last week, city officials received the final, official figures and they were shocking.

The $2.5 million estimate for renovation turned into $4.5 million. Total cost - $7 million, not the anticipated $5 million Council earlier supported bonds to cover.

Armed with this new information what will the panel be asked to do Tuesday?

Since the newly released cost projections don't support the city's financial case, will council pull their support and and go back to the drawing board?

Will they forge ahead with their original plans and somehow dig up that additional $2 million from other city funds?

Will they ask Family Holding Sub LLC, the current owners of the Health and Human Services Building, to negotiate a compromise?

Will we know the answers to these questions by tonight?

We shall see.

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© 2020 by Richard Hyatt