WARNER ROBINS -- Some offices in City Hall could begin moving as early as next month, but they won’t be moving far.
Mayor Randy Toms said he’s still exploring how best to use two office buildings across Myrtle Street that the city bought for $1 million last month.
One of the buildings is modern, built just a decade ago for the Star Software Systems Corp. That building is twice the size of the other and features plenty of glass and polished metal. One sprawling second-floor corner office includes a bathroom and a small kitchen, with large windows overlooking City Hall and its new F-15 fighter jet. A first-floor break room still has tables and chairs, as well as a small refrigerator.
Some rooms still have cubicles, and others have desks and chairs. The Star building also includes an elevator and a conference room. Most of the building appears to need a good cleaning and some paint, but not much more.
Bill Mulkey, the city’s building and transportation director, said the Star building is nearly ready to be used again.
“We’ve got to do a little work, like put that exit sign back up,” he said, pointing toward a sign dangling by a corner.
Toms said he’s working with department heads to figure out who would move into the Star building. Likely, the city’s community development, building, transportation and engineering offices would move across the street, Toms said.
That would free up much of City Hall, where a warren of small offices and cubicles offers little space. Toms said the move would free up some of the room for renovations in City Hall, which is a solid building but needs low-visibility improvements, such as rewiring the electrical system.
Toms said things like the City Clerk’s office and utility payments would remain in City Hall, which offers drive-thru service. But those and other offices could potentially spread across the freed-up space.
City Clerk Alton Mattox estimates about 75 people work in City Hall. Mattox said he keeps his office door closed to give his employees more privacy as they work.
“They are almost on top of each other, to be honest with you,” said Mattox, who said his employees need more comfort and an ability to have confidential discussions.
Toms said he’s still looking at ideas for the former bank building that looks out on Watson Boulevard. At about 7,000 square feet and some 41 years old, it’s half the size and four times as old as the Star building. The building still has things like a huge vault and chandeliers hanging on the first floor. The working areas are generally dingier and more cramped, and the building has less natural light than the Star building.
Mulkey said its challenges include not having an elevator to the second-floor offices, and inadequate bathrooms on the first floor. In the former bank building, most of the furniture remains.
Toms said the former bank building’s future is still unclear.
“There’s a lot of ideas. It needs a little more work,” he said. “We have ideas anywhere from a fine arts center to recreation office space.”
Toms said the city will get cost estimates for an elevator installation. An elevator potentially could be added where the bank vault is now, though Toms said he didn’t yet know how the vault could be removed.
“There’s much to be determined about that front building,” he said.
But Toms said the city got a good deal. Some years ago, the city had offered $500,000 just for the bank building. Now, for twice the money, it bought two buildings with three times the space -- and one is much more modern.
The U.S. Census Bureau said the city’s population roughly doubled between 1970 and 2010. The latest estimates put the city at 72,531 people.
Tax assessor records show the property went into foreclosure in 2007 and sold later that year for $1.75 million. The county tax assessor’s office said the properties are worth about $1.24 million now.
The city’s $1 million cost to buy the buildings is coming out of a special purpose local option sales tax fund that was to pay for renovations at City Hall. The city had budgeted about $4.7 million for the effort. About $2.5 million remains after the city bought the buildings, dealt with SPLOST revenue shortfalls and paid for a costly air conditioning replacement at City Hall.
Toms said the purchase gives the city space it needs.
“I’m excited about the move,” he said Friday.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.