After months of dissension between members of the City Council and Mayor Guy Cash, both parties have finally agreed to build a new administration building - sort of.
The council and Cash have debated over the issue since February when the council voted 4-1 to accept a bid for the new building at $447,800 - later reduced to $419,000 - and Cash refused to sign it. He said the city would be wiser to remodel the Memorial Building because it would be cheaper and would preserve one of the city's most cherished buildings.A feasibility study estimated it would cost about $315,000 to renovate the Memorial Building. But the council did not believe the renovation would adequately meet the needs of the community and questioned the accuracy of the study. They said it has long been the city's plan to build a new administration building.
Several times over the past few months the council has urged Cash to sign the bid, but he has always refused. Cash has repeatedly urged the council to table the issue for more study and more citizen input.
Meanwhile the originally accepted bid expired and was withdrawn by the contractor.
Tuesday night the council voted 4-1 to accept the second lowest bid on the building of $448,821, with Councilman Sherwin Allred casting the dissenting vote. The council then presented the contract to Cash and again urged him to sign it.
Cash signed the contract but said he did so under protest. He said that unless he signed the contract, the council would have appointed a pro-tem mayor who would sign the contract.
"Rather than them appointing someone else and going around me, I figured I'd be better to sign it and do it under protest," Cash said.
The bid was signed despite presentation of a petition with about 600 citizens' signatures calling for restoration of the Memorial Building.
Councilman Keith Jenkins said it is still the council's intent to restore the building and make sure it is maintained. He also said that even though the bid was for $448,821, the council plans to work with the contractor to reduce the building's costs to the first accepted bid.
Cash said the city cannot afford to build the new administration building and restore the Memorial Building, too. He also said the cost of the new building will take money away from other pressing needs.
Cash said he still thinks it's a bad move for the city to build a new administration building. He said the city will now have to decide what to do with the Memorial Building and the building the city now uses for offices.
"I just don't think they looked into the pocket book when they made this decision. I don't think it's good economics and I don't think it's good politics," he said.
After Tuesday's meeting, Cash wrote the council a letter expressing his disappointment in their decision but hope that their differences can be put behind them. He said he had no hard feelings and that his commitment to the citizens had intensified.
Construction on the administration building, located at 200 North and Center Street, is expected to begin this week and will take about six months to complete.