Politics & Government

Warner Robins spending $1 million for City Hall annex

WARNER ROBINS -- City Council members voted Monday to spend $1 million to buy two buildings adjacent to City Hall.

Mayor Randy Toms said the city will use money from its special purpose local option sales tax that was to renovate City Hall and nearby municipal buildings to close the sale.

The two buildings have a total of about 20,000 square feet, about two thirds of which is in the Star Building that was built about a decade ago, according to Houston County property records.

The city previously owned the second building, a former bank building at the corner of Watson Boulevard and Myrtle Street.

Tax assessors say the properties are worth about $1.24 million. Toms said crowded City Hall offices will move into the Star Building, while the city is undecided how it will use the bank building.

“We are going to make good use,” he said.

City Council members voted without opposition for the purchase, with Councilman Mike Davis absent because of a death in his family.

The city had budgeted $4.7 million in SPLOST money for upgrades at City Hall and the adjoining Civic Center. With the purchase of the two buildings, budget cuts and a costly air-conditioning upgrade, about $2.5 million of that money will remain.

In a work session Monday, council members debated changes to the city’s pension plan that would allow Toms to collect his city pension while serving as mayor.

Toms worked 27 years as a firefighter for the city. Pension changes already approved by the council covered former firefighter Davis and retired City Clerk Carolyn Robbins, both of whom currently serve on the City Council.

Councilman Keith Lauritsen said he drafted the agreement to allow Toms to collect the pension. City Council members agreed to give the proposal a first reading Monday, with a second and final reading -- and potential passage -- in two weeks. Warner Robins city officials also will look at how other cities handle such issues.

City Attorney Jim Elliott said the council would have to pass the changes by Dec. 31 for them to take effect at the beginning of 2014, when Toms took office.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.