UPDATE: Citizen’s Square Elevator Blunder Continues

Robert Pence Photoography

The contract to repair the elevators at Citizens Square will come before the City Council for approval.

The council Tuesday discussed cost overruns at the new home to city and county government, specifically the need to spend nearly $1 million replacing the building’s six elevators.

Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, questioned how such a large expense could have been missed by the city – an expense he opposed from the beginning.

“I suspect we paid too much for the building,” he said.

A divided council in August 2009 approved buying the 220,000-square-foot office building for $7.3 million and then approved borrowing $17.2 million to finance that acquisition and remodeling of the building. It’s grand opening was in June.

Controller Pat Roller said that when the city bought the building she believed the city could get four to five years out of the elevators. After everyone moved in, it became apparent the elevators needed work. While the city could continue to pay $10,000 each month to service the elevators, she said it made more sense to repair them all at once.

“It’s not like this is a crisis,” Roller said.

The Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission last month voted 3-2 to spend up to $950,000 from one of its tax-increment financing districts to upgrade the elevators. The mayor’s appointees supported the expense, and the council’s appointees opposed it.

While the commission approved money for the project, Roller confirmed Tuesday she will bring the actual repair contract to the council for approval.

Councilmen Mitch Harper, R-4th, and John Shoaff, D-at-large, sent a letter last month asking whether that would be the case.

Shoaff questioned whether using the money for elevators was an appropriate use of tax-increment financing revenue, stating that money is intended to be used for economic development.

He questioned whether it was appropriate for an unelected body to be making such big decisions, especially in times of tight budgets.

“At the same time you are pretty flush, we have city departments that are starving,” he said.

City officials said using the money was legally appropriate, and Roller said the money was identified as a way to make the project happen. Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said he was glad the redevelopment commission was able to help cover the expense.

“Thank you for coming forward and bailing us out of a tough situation,” he said.

Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, compared the expense with that of replacing a heater or air conditioner at a home. He said the city should just expect to have expenses now that it owns a large older building.

“You’re going to have to expect and incur costs when you buy something used,” he said.

The council did not vote on the issue Tuesday.

The city hopes to begin construction on the elevators within the next three months if the council approves the contract.

A company has not been selected to perform the work.

-Journal Gazette

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Categories: Goverment

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