AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said the existing city hall building is failing, and there is no funding in an annual budget, even with the proposed tax rate increase, for the city hall project.
The mayor says it is time to act, whether it is investing in the old building to keep it functional or moving city hall to a new location.
“Part of one was a boiler that went down and we thought we were not gonna be able to heat the building, and then the second was we had biomatter and that flooded the basement,” said Mayor Nelson. “We were concerned that it was going to get into our phone system and our phones would not be operational. How we clear all that out and clean that out was just a gigantic mess.”
Mayor Nelson also said flooding is common and there are regular plumbing issues, plus structural damage.
“Our concrete is failing in our loading dock. We are not ADA compliant, there’s only one place you can go to the restroom if you’re in a wheelchair; if you’re a citizen who uses a wheelchair,” said Mayor Nelson.
“When the governor came to do a press conference here last summer, he had to enter the building through the loading dock and enter into the basement just for accessibility.”
The city says other issues at the existing city hall include:
- The cooling tower replacement tower is 27 years old and failing.
- When the building was constructed, cat iron and galvanized pipe were the standards. These types of construction techniques are now obsolete and failing.
- The front steps of city hall are suffering concrete deterioration and need replacing.
- The roof of the loading ramp doorway is suffering serious concrete deterioration and needs repairs to prevent restriction of access to the ramp.
- The two primary elevators have failed in recent years.
When asked how the building has fallen into such disrepair, Mayor Nelson said, “Amarillo has a very low tax rate and the offset of that, to get through that very low tax rate, we hold off on doing repairs as long as possible.”
She also said priorities can change from council to council.
“The council needs to continue to value the incremental cost of maintaining the assets that we have versus looking to hold off and kick the can down the road on repair. A small tax raise that gets more use out of our asset, I think, is a better long-term financial decision than avoiding repairs at all costs as long as we possibly can,” said Mayor Nelson.
But a petition intended to require the city council to allow voters to decide whether or not to spend the money through certificates of obligation to move city hall is in the process of being validated.
The city secretary has published notice that the council plans to issue certificates of obligation on Aug. 10.
According to Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller, the timeline could change as a result.
“Depending on what happens, there may have to be changes to our notice process, but right now, what I understand is, this is something that can be accommodated with the postings that we’ve already made. It just modifies the dates at which the council would be making a determination or completely changes if they call an election,” said Miller.
Miller said the delay could cause more failures in the existing city hall while the petition process is followed.
“The future of this building is in question, and it would not be prudent to put hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars into something if we’re going to be tearing it down right away,” said Miller. “So we’re gonna keep trying to nurse this building along without making significant expenditures, if at all possible.”
With other big-ticket items the city needs to invest in, Mayor Nelson said they need input from taxpayers about how to move forward.
“The investments that we need to make in City Hall repairs, whether we stay in this building or move to Amarillo hardware building, the Parks and Rec. overhaul that we’ve got to have, those dollars have to come from somewhere, and at our current tax rate, we don’t have the dollars to solve these problems,” said Mayor Nelson. “So taxpayers must be part of that conversation.”
The mayor also said maintaining and improving our parks assets are big priorities for the city.
Watch our full interview with Mayor Ginger Nelson below: