The Anniston City Council voted 3-2 during its meeting Tuesday night to spend $384,000 on the first phase of temporary City Hall renovations.
The council decided last week to reopen bidding on renovations to part of the Consolidated Publishing building, which also houses the offices of The Anniston Star in a separate wing. A single bid for $440,000 had been received, blowing past the estimated $300,000 price tag of the project. City Manager Jay Johnson was authorized to work with an architect to adjust the scope of the project and take new bids for the first part of a two-phase project.
Johnson said Tuesday night that McWhorter and Company, an Anniston-based construction firm, was the only bidder in the second round, in spite of cost- saving adjustments that would see less spending on HVAC and utilities. McWhorter’s nearly-$400,000 fee would create space inside the east wing of the McClellan Boulevard building for City Hall’s administrative offices. Creation of a City Council chamber and smaller conference room would be a second phase of the project to begin later.
The relocation project was prompted by the impending construction of a federal courthouse. The U.S. General Services Administration is expected to purchase the current City Hall site on Gurnee Avenue in August. The building will be demolished to make way for the new courthouse.
Councilman David Reddick noted during a pre-meeting work session that the bid for a single phase of construction is only about $60,000 less than the previous bid for the full project, which included the council chamber. He said the completed project price would likely be higher than the original $440,000 bid.
“Why not go with the original bid if we’re going to do that?” Reddick asked.
Johnson said still more cost-saving measures would be employed, and he expected to return to the council on June 18, at the next meeting, with more reductions in the cost.
Mayor Jack Draper said in a pre-vote discussion that he understood Reddick’s concern but felt that the council should move forward on the project immediately.
Councilwoman Millie Harris echoed his sentiment.
Reddick and Councilman Ben Little voted against accepting the bid, while Draper, Harris and Councilman Jay Jenkins voted in favor.
The disagreement was mild, one of just a few throughout the evening, which otherwise featured council members joking amongst themselves.
Council meetings in August and September have already been scheduled at the Anniston City Meeting Center, 17th and Noble, as a catch-all to meet public notice requirements. No certain date on the second phase of renovation has been set.
City Hall itself is expected to be moved into the east wing of Consolidated Publishing within the week of Aug. 18, according to Johnson.
During its meeting, the City Council also:
— Voted to make a public records request of state government to learn whether a vote to accept the Council-Manager form of government had been pre-cleared by the U.S. District Court. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 offers certain protections to voting populations, and any adjustments to the way they vote must be cleared by the federal government to avoid election manipulation. Anniston voted to accept the form of government in 1968.
If the vote wasn’t precleared, Little contends, the city’s current administration may be illegal.
Johnson noted that he and Skyler Bass, city clerk, had gone through city records and found no evidence of preclearance or a lack thereof. Little apparently had taken that to mean voting hadn’t been precleared, which Johnson urged was not a correct interpretation.
The council voted unanimously to take the action, with Draper saying it seemed to be “an eminently reasonable request.”
— Released liens on several properties, including one that had been a point of contention in a previous meeting. That property, located at 1805 West 21st Street, had a lien totaling $7,316.82, from a loan given to the property owner’s mother before she died.
Several similar properties with liens were unlikely to be collected on, Jenkins said, because the owners had been long deceased. Rather than keeping holds on those residences until they cave in and end up on the city’s demolition list, he said, it would be best to forgive the loans and see the property used.
The forgiven loans totaled to about $98,000, Jenkins said.
— Appointed Rob Svensen and Linda Jenkins to the Regional Medical Center board of directors, a joint organization between hospital staff, local municipalities and Calhoun County administrators.
Little said there is no representation of his city ward on the board and protested the selections that were appointed in lieu of his recommendation for the post.
— Authorized Dorsey Architects and Associates to make a project design of the Dr. David Satcher Health Institute and Civil Rights Museum, a proposed health clinic and museum project in Anniston.