(Posted June 12, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The city of London soon will seek bids for renovation of the old primary school at 20 S. Walnut St. for use as city offices. The rough estimate on the project’s maximum cost is just under $1.5 million.
Councilman Rex Castle said he plans to present a firmer figure at the June 16 council meeting. The estimate is based on information provided by an architectural firm and a local general contractor acting in an advisory capacity. Once a few more questions are addressed and a firmer number is reached, council will vote on whether or not to go to bid.
The idea is to consolidate all of the city’s departments, except police, fire and street, into the 30,000 square feet available on the old school building’s first floor. Currently, those departments are split between two buildings on East Second and South Main streets.
Castle said a large portion of the $1.5 million estimate is for installation of air conditioning and forced air heat, along with the necessary electrical upgrades for those improvements. Right now, a boiler heats the building. Castle said the properties committee is pushing for an aggressive timeline on the project in order to have HVAC improvements done before the next cold season in order to protect the building.
If council moves forward with bids, the next task will be to determine how to pay for the project. Potential sources include the sale of the city-owned buildings on East Second and South Main streets, as well as the approximately $200,000 in the Walnut Street Fund. Other possibilities include commercial financing, bonds or grants.
If city leaders find they cannot afford the full $1.5 million in improvements, Castle said the bid will be structured to adjust the project down to what the city can afford. The heating and cooling changes would remain a priority, but other features could be changed to less expensive options or eliminated altogether, he said. One example would be to paint the exposed brick walls on the interior, rather than to drywall over them.
“We’re going to make a facility that every citizen of London and every employee who works there will be proud of,” Castle said.
Doug Pyles, a London resident and electrical engineer by trade, has followed the city properties committee efforts closely. At the June 2 city council meeting, he commented, “For the scope of work involved, the (estimated price) is very reasonable… It’s the right thing for the city to do.”
The next city properties committee meeting is at 7 p.m. June 15 in council chambers, 6 E. Second St. The next regular council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. June 16 at the same location.