City considering bond for Civic Center repairs

The voters might soon be asked to vote on a $5.5 million bond for repairs to the Civic Center.

The building repairs have been a concern to city officials for years and a local architecture firm is recommending replacing the failing panels with new panels that have a different composition to maintain the historic character of the building while also addressing the structural and safety issues that have developed.

City looking at costs, options to repair Natatorium, Civic Center, wave rider

The city doesn’t have $5 million squirreled away for the project and is anticipating other big ticket items in the near future, including a public safety radio system overhaul for an estimated $4 million, so city staff are recommending that the City Commission pursue voted debt for the Civic Center project.

“I believe Nov. 5, 2019 is out,” said Melissa Kinzler, the city’s finance director during the June 18 work session.

That leaves options to put the question on either the May school election ballot or November 2020, or a special election.

The county is also considering a bond for the November 2020 ballot for Expo Center improvements and the school board has indicated an intent to seek a bond during their next election.

City approves tax abatement, Civic Center contract, TIF funding, fire engine donation and more

Based on estimates from the city finance office, the options for the bond could be, using current mill value:

  • $5.5 million loan at 4 percent for 20 years with an annual payment of $402,113. This would be a 4.13 mill increase or $5.57 a year on a house with a taxable market value of $100,000.
  • $5.5 million loan at 4 percent for 10 years with an annual payment of $672,723. This would be a $9.34 annual increase with a taxable value of $100,000.
  • $6 million loan at 4 for 20 years with an annual payment of $438,869. This would be a $6.10 annual increase on a house with taxable market value of $100,000.
  • $6 million loan at 4 percent for 10 years with an annual payment of $734,081. This would be a $10.19 annual increase on a house with a taxable market value of $100,000.

If the bond question was placed on the May 2020 school ballot, the city could split the cost of the election and the city’s cost would be about $22,000.

The Civic Center building was built in the 1930s, under the Works Progress Administration. The Works Progress Administration was renamed in 1939 to the Work Projects Administration, according to the city’s history of the building. The program was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential order and funded by Congress with passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act on April 8, 1935.

Commission to consider engineering agreement for Civic Center repairs

In recent years, some of the cast stone concrete panels have been deteriorating, there’s exposed rebar that’s corroding and “massive cracking,” said Tony Houtz, the project architect from CTA Architects.

They city published the request for qualifications in February 2017 and in October 2017, the City Commission approved a $494,060 professional services agreement with CTA for architectural and engineering design services for repairs to the facade of the Civic Center.

The process allowed the city investigate the situation with the building and get better cost estimates for repairs.

During that October 2017 meeting, City Manager Greg Doyon said, “We do need to make an ask to the public to fix the front of the building.”

Houtz told commissioners during their June 18 worksession that original documents don’t show how the exterior was constructed so CTA did an investigation and enhance testing.

“We don’t build like this anymore,” Houtz said. “There are things we do with new buildings that we can’t feasibly do with this building.”

He said they hadn’t identified any mechanical means that the panels were secured to the building.

“Whis is scary by the way,” Planning Director Craig Raymond said during the June 18 meeting.

Some of the concrete panels, which have a high chloride content, are bowing and buckling, Houtz said.

“Our team went exhaustively,” through options for repairs, Houtz said.

CTA, with assistance from specialty consultants, is recommending to replace the panels, but with a different concrete mix, and to replace the roof. Houtz said they don’t know why the concrete used on the Civic Center had a high chloride content.

The replacement would have to be done in phases and would likely render sections of the building unusable while work is being done on the outside, Houtz said.

“This is going to be a time consuming, long process,” he said.

Houtz said they also included a temporary entrance canopy in their cost estimates to protect people coming in and out of the building while work was going on above.

Houtz said the building has “performed very well” for a long time and would expect it to have an equally long lifespan with the replacement panels.

City Commissioner Tracy Houck asked what would happen if the city opted to do nothing.

Houtz said the panels would start falling off the building, causing safety hazards, and expose the rebar and structure of the building to the weather which would decrease the building’s integrity over time.

Discussions on how to proceed with the Civic Center will proceed at future City Commission meetings and it would take a vote at a public meeting, with public hearings, to put the question on any ballot.

“This is a community decision,” said Mayor Bob Kelly.