Repairing Amarillo City Hall: Renovating, moving, or doing neither to cost millions

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — City of Amarillo officials said on Tuesday that the existing city hall needs repairs to remain functional. Now, the city council will have to decide whether to renovate that building or move.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Amarillo Facilities Manager Jerry Danforth presented three options to the city council: renovating city hall, renovating the Amarillo Hardware building, or doing neither.

Danforth said the cost to renovate the existing city hall would be about $28.5 million. Renovating Amarillo Hardware and the process of moving over there would cost about $31 million. Lastly, the cost of not doing either renovation is estimated to be $5.5 million for the next two years to keep city hall running.

On Wednesday, MyHighPlains.com spoke with Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller about some of the issues in the current building.

“It’s an old building. It’s got a lot of wear and tear,” Miller said. “It’s been a great building for us but there are some structural challenges, certainly some significant heavy system challenges. When I say system challenges, we’re talking about chillers, boilers, technology, ADA, structural access, you know, structural integrity, other things like that.”

Miller said there are also flooding problems, but even that does not make an exhaustive list.

“So there’s a number of things that are going to need to be addressed with this building in the short term if we’re going to continue using it without doing any type of major renovation project,” Miller said.

On renovating the existing city hall Miller said, “What we were talking about last night was what would it cost to renovate this building and make it usable for the long term. Now if we did that, we wouldn’t have a drive-thru window, the parking lot would stay the same size and we would be in the way of any future arena project.”

The City already purchased the Amarillo Hardware Company building if the council chooses to renovate it.

“That would have a drive-through, that would have a significantly larger parking capacity. It would have the value of having a significant amount of additional space for expansion or that we could lease out to private tenants that could then also office in the same building as city hall so it would bring in revenue that could offset the annual operating cost or the debt service for the building.”

He said it is not guaranteed, but instead, a very likely, revenue stream to lease to tenants.

If the council votes not to move forward with either renovation project, the cost to keep the building functioning might be a waste of money.

“That amount of money does not address the structural challenges that we have with this building, or the flooding issues that we have with this building, or some of the mold issues and other things,” Miller said.

“Some people are going to say, ‘Hey, we just need to spend the least amount possible on our existing city hall, keep it running and we can make those additional decisions two or three years down the road.’ And that’s a valid position. The challenge there is that we will get to a point where we have to do one of the major renovation projects, and they’re going to be significantly more expensive very likely if recent history is any indication of what’s going to happen,” he said, citing the recent inflation of building materials.

He said the City is not trying to steer the council in any direction on the city hall decision.

“What we’re actually doing is providing options, and we’re going to go in any direction, the council the community wants to go,” Miller continued. “That said, everyone can draw their own conclusions about what’s best and it’s going to really depend on, on long-term vision for the community.”

The City Council has not made any decisions yet, and Miller said they will hear input from the community.

“Input is always welcome. You know, I think that from a city staff standpoint, certainly from a city council standpoint, anytime somebody calls and asks questions we want to answer all those questions.”

Miller said the City will be working on design to get exact costs for the council in future meetings.

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