City releases statement concerning city hall options

Published 8:51 am Saturday, April 30, 2016

City of Orange responded to comments made by citizens during the Tuesday evening meeting by releasing a two-page statement on Thursday.

Discussions have lead to a court case currently before the Beaumont Court of Appeals.

According to the latest press release from the city, ‘When considering the former Capital One/Hibernia Bank building, the following issues were discovered by licensed and professional contractors: mildew and humidity, ADA compliance mandates, utility costs, and the original asking price of $1,400,000 in an “as is” condition. The bank building is 40 years old and has been vacant for several years. Exterior issues include: glass problems with leakage, deterioration of caulking at joints, broken glass, and the replacement of structural sash/single pane/double glass would be necessary to meet wind load requirements. Exterior costs are estimated to reach $950,000. Interior issues include: flooring, sheetrock and painting, ADA compliance, electrical and fixtures, HVAC, and elevator. Interior costs are estimated to reach $750,000. Exterior and interior costs are estimated to reach up to a total of $1,700,000 which adds up to a total project cost of $3,100,000.’

Leslie Barras, of Orange and representative of Historic Orange Preservation Empowerment, Inc. (HOPE) presented the City of Orange council meeting on Tuesday.

Barras offered two alternative plans during the citizens comment section of the meeting, which would keep City Hall in the downtown Orange area instead.

Option A would expand the current City Hall facility by adding annexed buildings, allowing for certain departments to be moved out of the current building.

Option B would take into account the availability of a previous bank building located at 302 North 5th, next to the Library, which would not only allow for expansion, but would also keep City Hall and all necessary departments in the downtown Orange area. She suggested that the old building could then be repurposed for possible use by the Visitor and Tourism Bureau, or as a convention center, just to name a few. She shared a hand drawing of Option A, and an architectural drawing of Option B, with improvements made to both facilities that would match the red brick and copper design already associated with many buildings in downtown Orange.

“The information proved in the lawsuit shows that current City Hall can be rehabilitated and the City actually budgeted for it,” Barras said on Friday in response to the city’s press release. “The City’s press release states that a consulting firm ‘determined’ that it would be ‘costly’ to upgrade the current City Hall. The City Manager’s memo to the City Council recommending buying the First Financial Bank states that this same firm ‘showed’ that the ‘current design’ of City Hall ‘was not conducive to the current and future needs of the City.’”

According to a transcript of the hearing for a temporary injunction on the lawsuit concerning the city hall, Dr. Shawn Oubre, city manager, confirmed the General Fund in the city’s current budget for fiscal year 2015/2016 will also recognize $350,000 for City Hall campus improvements. The budget was approved after a public hearing last year.

Barras has contended the public was never permitted to give input on the relocation of city hall.

“But, in fact, this study determined that City Hall could be renovated to completely upgrade all heating, air conditioning, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing for the entire building and make the interior space more efficient for slightly over $391,000,” Barras said. “The City went to the Texas Historical Commission to be sure the project ‘would be in good standing’ and the state agency responded supporting this rehabilitation. This year’s city budget includes $350,000 for City Hall improvements. In sworn testimony during the City Hall lawsuit hearing, the City Manager agreed that all of these statements were correct.”

First mention of the possible purchase was on the agenda for the 9 a.m. Jan. 12 city council meeting.

The city approved purchasing the First Financial Bank during the Jan. 12 meeting.

‘As a result, the First Financial Bank building was considered as an option for the relocation of City Hall. This option provides an opportunity to better serve the residents and visitors with a drive-thru and a single floor facility. Space availability also allows for a relocation of the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau with high visibility and accessibility. An independent appraisal was presented to the City at $2,400,000. First Financial Bank presented an appraisal value at $4,800,000 and the final negotiated purchase price is $2,000,000.

After reviewing all of the site locations and costs associated with remodels and ADA compliance mandates, the City Council determined the best value for the citizens of Orange, short-term and long-term, was to move forward with entering into a contract agreement with First Financial Bank at the purchase price of $2,000,000 with no significant upgrades or remodel costs associated with the transaction. The repurposing of the current City Hall location on Green Avenue will be determined at a later date, which will include public input. The City Council is excited and optimistic with this new opportunity to relocate City Hall to 16th Street, which is a more centralized and accessible location for all residents and visitors’ according to the city’s statement.

Full statement from the city can be viewed here:

FFB Media Press Release-Final