A million-dollar price tag to repair City Hall’s water damage may not be as daunting as it first appears.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, incoming City Manager Sam Sanders asked council to approve an emergency expense of $1.5 million. Council obliged.
But Sanders expects much of the bill to be covered by insurance.
“Whatever portion we get back would actually replenish what we’re asking you to appropriate tonight,” he told council. “The goal of course will be to not use all of this money, but we need to at least have it available to get us moving.”
Sanders said that a water leak last weekend caused “serious damage” to the lobby of City Hall.
On Thursday, he told The Daily Progress in a statement that the lobby would not be accessible to the public for six months in order “to permit a full return to an improved space with better function.”
The lobby had already been scheduled for a renovation in October, but after last weekend’s water damage, Sanders said he authorized the project to be accelerated.
City Hall has not yet received preliminary figures on how much of the water damage will be covered by insurance, but Sanders said he anticipates “a significant liability to be covered by our carrier.”
“The adjuster did walk the premises this week and will likely return as we complete the removal of specific losses which will also need to be viewed in person,” he wrote to The Daily Progress.
The money was pulled from the Capital Improvement Program contingency fund.
During Monday night’s meeting, Sanders painted the request as a temporary investment that would largely be repaid.
“Hopefully this is a cash flow measure rather than a long-term expenditure,” Mayor Lloyd Snook suggested.
“Absolutely. Ideally that would be the case,” Sanders responded.
Council Member Michael Payne asked how the $1.5 million figure was reached.
“It’s based off the extent of damage that we have pulled together at this moment, with understanding that we still have to pull things out and in pulling things out we anticipate finding more,” Sanders said.
When The Daily Progress went to City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, it found the building entrance surrounded by yellow caution tape and a truck outside filled with what appeared to be ceiling tiles ruined by water damage.
A city employee who walked by City Hall told The Daily Progress that they had only seen pictures of the damage inside.
“It’s a mess,” the employee said, adding that they’d heard a rumor that due to the leak, a person standing in the lobby could look up and see the third floor of the building.
Sanders said the leak ruined carpet and likely equipment.
A number of offices have been temporarily moved to other locations as the building is being repaired.
The treasurer’s office is now located inside the Parks & Recreation office at 501 E. Main St. The commissioner of the revenue’s office will make use of the Downtown Transit Center on the Downtown Mall.
Sanders told The Daily Progress those temporary arrangements will remain in place until a location can be secured for them to again be in the same building. The city is looking at options now, he said.
The $1.5 million approved by council, he said, was to “ensure staff had the available resources to do what is needed without delay.”
Just before council took its vote on Monday night, Sanders reiterated that the money would be spent sparingly and the fund would be replenished.
“It won’t be used unless it’s needed and whatever we get back from insurance will replace it,” he told council.