The idea of creating a new city headquarters – the so-called “one-stop” building is complicated for me. Anyone who has visited the city health, community development or operations departments in the past few decades could hardly argue that they put the city’s best face forward. Even City Hall – a lovely wedding cake sitting on a picturesque, verdant lawn from the outside takes on a different character once you are inside. It was clearly never intended to be used as an office building and it does not serve that purpose well. It is not ADA compliant and the first floor bathroom, which appears to be a converted broom closet, adds to the less-than-professional atmosphere.
There are other good reasons to consider making changes; the very old buildings housing city workers now are very expensive to maintain and make the internal operation of the city government less efficient as well.
However, while there are many possible solutions to these problems the current (and previous) administration seems totally committed to the idea that we must have a brand new $10.5 million building. This building was the principle subject of a special City Council meeting held earlier this week which allowed City Council an opportunity to question the administration about the details.
I have my own opinions but I’m going to let two Warren City Councilmen speak instead. I emailed every Council member and asked for their position on the bond issue in general and the one-stop in particular. Only two responded on-the-record, although several additional Council members told me they had similar opinions to those that follow.
Third Ward Councilman John Brown: “My position at the moment is opposed. We have not been given the background information that we have requested.”
This is a very common feeling among Council members who have been asking for specific documentation on how the new building will save on operating expenses since last year. That information is yet to be offered.
Fourth Ward Council member Gregg Bartholomew echoed Mr. Brown’s position and added several other points: “I think there had to be some viable options that weren’t seriously considered past the point of “it needed work” or “parking was an issue.””
Several other members mentioned being put-off by not having been a part of the process of evaluating other options.
Bartholomew is leaving the door open for a new building however adding, “If the savings are large enough to merit one then I will be all for it. If it is a lateral move financially then I am against it. Warren has bigger problems right now. Let’s get the city looking great first and give back to our residents before we tackle a $10 million building project. Roads, blight, sidewalks (rarely mentioned) and park upgrades should be addressed before this building is built.”
There will be many more words spoken and written on this topic before the bond issue vote is taken, most likely sometime in September. I salute Councilmen Brown and Bartholomew for publicly stating their positions which can only help the general public better understand the issues. I will be happy to give proponents of the one-stop an equal opportunity to make their case.