COLUMBUS, Ga. — After close to a year of brain storming, citizen’s surveys, and planning, the Columbus mayor and her appointed commission believe they’ve found the best solution to the current government center’s many ailments — just get rid of it.
Dripping ceilings, staircases not up to fire code, and failing electrical systems are just a few of many problems plaguing the more than 50-year-old Columbus Consolidated Government Center buildings on 10th Street that are simply past their prime.
“It’s simply used up it’s useful life,” says President and CEO of the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce Brian Anderson, who is also a member of the mayor’s New Government and Judicial Building Commission. “That’s not unusual for a building of that size and age. It was built before some of the current safety requirements were put in place.”
One of the main concerns citizens and city leaders expressed was a lack of adequate sprinkler systems and safe exit paths in case of a fire.
“God forbid there should be a fire or some serious smoke scenario, it would be very difficult to get that many people evacuated out of that building safely,” says Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. “The stairwells are in the center of the building and exit onto a floor that is, though it is our ground floor, technically a basement.”
The current government center’s set up also raises many costly security concerns.
“You’ve got regular city services mixed in with judicial services so everybody, anybody who visits the building has to go through the full, high-level security to make sure we’re protective of that,” Anderson says. “So you could separate the functions if you had two buildings and put the non-judicial in one and the judicial in another. So ordinary citizens who are going to meet with the mayor or get property records, or others, they wouldn’t have to go through that security set up.”
Mayor Tomlinson and the commission presented the scenario for two separate buildings to the Columbus City Council at Tuesday morning’s meeting. The plan to build a judicial center and a new government center would cost more than $124 million, according to Mayor Tomlinson’s press release.
However, the commission also put together another option that could address safety concerns and save around $25 million for the tax-payers.
“They recommended we look for existing office space, office space that has already been built by a private entity, maybe a law firm or some other company that has vacated those premises,” Mayor Tomlinson tells News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton. “We can move our entire remaining general government functions into that existing office space, and then simply build a new judicial center.”
Now that the proposal is in City Council’s hands, it will be upon them to decide whether or not to move the proposal to a SPLOST vote in 2020, as the mayor and her commission also suggested.
Click here to view the most recent New Government and Judicial Building Commission report, which also includes citizens’ comments that were received and taken into consideration in the planning process.