Amarillo City Council starts process of deciding location of city hall

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo City Council is taking its first steps in deciding where the city hall should be located, after backtracking from its previous proposed funding plan.

During Tuesday’s regular meeting, the council heard information about properties that have been considered in the past and properties that could work now as viable options for city hall. The city said it has seen a preference for a downtown location to easily serve the entire city.

As previously reported on August 24, the council voted to withdraw its plan to issue certificates of obligation to fund a proposed city hall project.

“So, as we step back from the notice of intent to issue certificates of obligation that we had that council had approved earlier this year, we’re stepping back from that now so that we can reevaluate everything that we’ve done historically up to this point,” Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said. “And assess, ‘Is there a way that we can do it better? Is there a way where we can do it less expensive?”‘

Miller said while there has been a lot of work done to plan this project, they want to make it as inexpensive as possible while serving the needs of the city efficiently.

Now, the council and the city must decide how to move forward—whether that means remodeling and staying in the existing city hall building, renovating an existing property, or building new construction.

Miller said at some point, “Council would arrive at guidance for staff telling us what to do. Do you want a short-term fix? Do you want a long-term fix? Do you want a short or long-term fix in our existing facility? Or do you want a long-term fix in a different facility? So, there’s a lot of things for them to consider. There’s a lot of different funding mechanisms and mixes that we can use to provide the capital to do the project.”

In the meantime, the city is trying to keep the existing building in working condition without investing in expensive upgrades.

“What we’re doing right now, though, is trying to keep everything running, and not make major expenses or major investments in our existing building, knowing that we might be moving and even tearing this down,” said Miller. “So, we’re going to spend as little as possible while maintaining the best posture we possibly can to make sure that this is going to serve us at least for the very, very short-term, which would be through the winter and into next year.”

But the 55-year-old building has its challenges, especially with winter approaching.

“We’ve been looking at multiple projects that are coming up in this building with the age of this structure, making city council aware that some of these items are getting to the point where we could experience catastrophic failure,” said Jerry Danforth, Director of Facilities for the City of Amarillo. “We almost did at the big freeze…we were actually three days away from not being able to keep City Hall warm enough, and had we not been able to do that, we would have frozen every pipeline in the city hall, and city hall would have been shut down.”

Miller said, “We’ve taken very prudent steps to safeguard the building for this winter, but you can never know for sure when you’re talking about a building of this age and systems of this age.”

Danforth said his department is ready when the council makes a decision.

“Right now, the city council has a lot of this information in front of them. They’ve had it in front of them for a couple of years, and they’ve got the hard part of making the final decision,” Danforth said. “And when they get to that point, we’re ready to move quickly forward with architects that are already under contract ready to go.”

He continued, “So whether it’s new construction or remodel of the existing facility that we own and Amarillo hardware, we’re ready to move quickly after that decision gets made.”

While funding this project has become an issue for some taxpayers, Miller said the council wants to consider every option moving forward.

“We want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence, that we’re really picking those questions apart and looking at every option possible with regard to what we do, and how we pay for it,” Miller added. “So, that whatever we end up doing, I think that at this point, we will definitely be able to say that we’ve turned over every rock, we’ve looked at every option.”

While the council is in the early stages of deciding the future of city hall, there is no funding plan in place yet.

“Nobody wants to pay for a city hall. I get that. And nobody wants to gild the lily with some super fancy City Hall,” Miller continued. “However, at the same time, you have to have a building where you conduct the business of the city and at some point, they do wear out and this one has served us well, and maybe we can make it last longer. But that’s something that council is going to give us guidance on.”

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