More Civic Center repairs needed; staff considering office space options

The Civic Center façade and roof repair project is well underway but officials have found more issues that need to be addressed.

During the Oct. 5 City Commission meeting, City Manager Greg Doyon said they’ve found some issues that couldn’t have been anticipated before crews got into the building.

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He said those issues will add an estimated $300,000 to the project.

In April, commissioners approved a $5.4 million contract to Talisman Construction Services, Inc. of Spoke, Wash., which was the low bidder, for the project.

Doyon said he was reviewing the contract to see if the change order can be authorized by staff or if a special commission would be needed to add the additional work since it’s time sensitive.

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Doyon said he was on the top of the Civic Center where the cracks are evident and the additional repairs will be needed to ensure the building is properly fixed and weather tight.

Talisman’s bid had come in 4.23 percent below than the architect’s estimate.

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The city bonded against the downtown tax increment financing district to fund the project, extending the district by 13 years.

The TIF funds will be used to pay the annual debt service, an estimated $441,490.50.

City officials have discussed the need to repair the Civic Center façade since at least 2011 and in June 2020, Doyon restricted access to the front of the Civic Center due to public safety concerns.

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A piece of the back panel became dislodged, triggering the evaluation of other areas around the Civic Center, including “substantial cracking and buckling of the front panels,” according to the city.

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.

During the Oct. 5 work session, Doyon told commissioners that the city has been in the process of also addressing space issues within the Civic Center for office space and city services.

The Municipal Court is located in the basement of the Civic Center and needs more space, particularly with another judge, which is a pending item to be discussed, Doyon said.

The city owns the building behind the Civic Center that is currently occupied by the Children’s Museum of Montana, which has a lease of the building through November 2023.

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In August, the museum said it was no longer in a buy-sell agreement with Pacific Steel for the location on 3rd Street Northwest as COVID-19 slowed their fundraising efforts.

When the lease was extended another five years in 2018, Doyon said it was his recommendation to reclaim that space it already owns for city offices.

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During the Oct. 5 commission meeting, Doyon said it didn’t appear likely that the museum would be able to make any significant moves by the time their lease expires.

He told commissioners to start thinking about that as there may be options to use CARES Act funds to explore office space needs.

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Doyon said that if the city doesn’t use existing city owned property such as the museum building, he would recommend considering other property acquisition opportunities to meet office space needs.