City begins planning for move

WARREN – Nearly three months after purchasing the former Gibson Building, city officials are waiting for final architectural drawings and cost estimates for the new Warren Government Services Center.

They are expected to be delivered by the end of the month.

“We ex-pect, at the earliest, to begin moving our three departments health, income tax and community development into the building in July,” Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said. “We still have to determine what will be the best use of the space.”

Mayor Doug Franklin previously estimated moving the three departments from 418 Main Ave. S.W. in early spring, but planning for the move has taken longer than initially anticipated.

There are 15,000 square feet on the building’s third floor and another 6,000 square feet on the second floor available. Recommendations for work needed to divide the space for the departments are being put together by the architectural firm Phillips-Sekanick.

The departments currently take up 18,635 square feet on the first and second floors at 418 Main. There are 23 employees in the three departments six in income tax, 12 in health, and five in community development.

Directors of each of the departments have said they will need to maintain the same amount of storage for their files and records, even if they have slightly less space for staff.

“We need space where income tax employees can meet with customers privately,” income tax commissioner John Homlitas said. “We also need public space.”

Homlitas also would like to have some lockable offices.

“We need a roof that works,” he added.

Michael Keys described the community development department as working in a space that formerly had nearly twice as many staff members, but adds he does not want to be placed in a position in which the department cannot grow.

“We could receive a grant where a new person will be need to be hired,” Keys said. “The departments could share meeting rooms and they may not need their own restroom facilities.”

Franklin said the city is looking at ways to more efficiently use its spaces by having the departments share conference rooms, storage areas and other common areas. The amount of furniture and equipment that may be transferred to East Market Street and what must be purchased has also not been determined.

Community development has thousands of files in dozens of filing cabinets and in boxes that must be stored at the new location.

Cantalamessa said the administration is looking at placing all three departments on the new building’s third floor, which would allow the city to lease the second floor. However, it also may consider placing the city’s health department on the second floor and reconfiguring the third floor, so it could lease a portion of it.

“The most transactionally involved department in the city is probably health, so it might be best served by putting the health department on the second floor,” Cantalamessa said.

In addition to the interior changes, the administration also is reviewing the best option for the building’s roof replacement, which either will be replacing the flat roof or creating a pitched roof.

It will not put out bids for the actual renovation of the building until receiving the architectural review of the project.

As a result of a recent change in state law, the administration has the option of hiring Phillips-Sekanick as the general contractor for the construction phase, or doing the general contracting work themselves.

“We likely would assign Paul Makosky to oversee the project,” Franklin said.

The city purchased the Warren Government Services Center in December by the city selling $2.5 million worth of bonds. Because bonds cannot be used to purchase or make improvements on buildings that will be leased, the city provided $1.3 million through an internal note to pay for those portions.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said the city has been looking to move offices out of 418 Main Ave. for several years because of building deterioration, including significant roof leaks, water in its basement, walls that are bowing, as well as foundation cracks.

The building was donated to the city for $1 in the mid-1980s. The city has invested more than $1 million into it since then.

City officials do not want to continue making extensive improvements to the building.

“There has been some interest in the building by the owner of the Warren Flea Market, which is located next to it,” Novak said.