Council needs a better plan

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By Patricia Max

Dear Editor,

The council has a plan to build millions of dollars of new buildings west of Ashley Pond without anyone in the community having a clear picture of what the area will look like in five years. Once council starts down this path, it will be difficult to change the project. Currently, we are looking at 140-plus vehicle parking garage, 47,000 square feet of Municipal Building, the current police station that is almost 12,000 square feet, plus the inflated jail/judicial complex.The latest space study I have been able to locate indicates that the county needs to house 144 staff in 41,062 square feet of municipal space. A space generating tool from the web calculates the following square footages: 26,640 (efficient), 31,680 (typical) and 36,000 (spacious) for 144 staff. There’s a big disconnect between the 2005 estimate of 41,062 square feet, the 47,000 square feet now being considered and the most generous estimate from the tool.Council should justify the size of the building and be more supportive of cost savings. For example, the private sector can build an office building for daily county functions that the county can occupy on a lease to purchase basis south of Trinity Drive. Then, the current municipal building can be renovated for council meetings, other public meetings and archives. Renovation will eliminate the need for a separate building for archives, saving $1.1 million at today’s estimate. The renovation should cost about $8 million. Yes, we would have an older building for part of the county functions but not for daily functions. We would not have to worry about lost office space caused by the renovation. Furthermore, renovating would eliminate the need for a parking garage for 140-plus vehicles, thus saving another $6 million or whatever it will wind up costing, since the parking would be shared with the police/jail/judicial with most county functions using the parking at night.The council should also direct the county staff to develop scale models for various options prior to moving forward with destroying the current Municipal Building. Moreover, even with the approval of going forward with the police/judicial complex, the council and county staff need to be more upfront about the costs to staff the court building, including the security entrance. Finally, the council’s approach to any project built with taxpayers’ dollars should be, “We will spend $nnn million and no more,” rather than, “We have unlimited funds.”Patricia MaxLos Alamos