PROVIDENCE – After hours of debate, discussion and public hearing in front of a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday night, the City Council voted 3-2 against selling the recently purchased building at 164 North Gateway Drive. Council members John Drew and Dennis Giles voted to sell while Jeff Baldwin, Kirk Allen and Roy Sneddon voted to keep it for future use as city offices.
The city originally purchased the building for $1.075 million, but after it is remodeled to fit the city’s needs it is estimated the total price will be $1.271 million. For years there have been complaints that the current building is too small, not ADA compliant and not equipped to meet the growing city’s needs.
Others weren’t happy with the solution and argued the decision to purchase the new building was made hastily and that it was too expensive.
“For me, the cost is what is bothering me the worst,” Giles said. “I think we could have done it differently with a little bit of planning, a little bit of forethought and go forward with it that way. We didn’t have to just jump into it and throw it down people’s throats.”
The building in question is a two-story, 8,000-square-foot brick veneer structure with an r-concrete frame. Sneddon presented his research prior to the vote and showed that constructing a similar but significantly smaller 4,400-square-foot building would be 108.4 percent the cost. The cheapest the city could go, according to Sneddon, would be to construct a 4,400-square-foot building with a wood frame. That much-smaller building would still be $1.03 million, 81.1 percent the cost of the Gateway Drive building.
“The numbers speak to me loudly,” he said. “We got a deal with the present building.”
Allen compared the prices to other similar city buildings in the county.
“We’re not that far off,” he said. “As a matter of fact we are getting a great deal.”
Allen pointed out the lack of storage space and unsafe situations the employees currently work in. He said the same conversation of purchasing a new building would probably continue year after year until the city has new offices.
“Walk downstairs and sit in a person’s office and see what they would have to do if there were an earthquake or fire,” he said.
Drew, who voted to sell the new building, suggested the money could have been used for other projects.
“To me it comes down to a matter of priorities,” he said. “This city has a lot of needs. I mean people want parks, they brought up roads, they brought up a lot of other issues about what this city needs.”
After the split 3-2 vote the council members then voted unanimously to award a bid for the building’s remodel.