City considering $2.5 million building, equipment upgrades
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – The city is preparing financing options for a proposed $2.5 million project that includes City Hall repairs, equipment upgrades and a new fire truck.

The main portion of the project, if approved by the City Council, is $1.2 million for energy upgrades performed by Trane. The intended scope of work includes new HVAC equipment, energy-efficient lighting and programmable controls at City Hall, as well as new lighting and controls at other city buildings. The upgrades will essentially pay for themselves over a 20-year period using guaranteed energy savings.

Another $800,000 is proposed for other City Hall repairs and renovations starting with replacing the glass curtain walls and porches at the front and side entrances of the building. Utilities Inspector Mike Whetstone said water penetrates the bottom of the walls and leaks into the mechanical room below.

“When it rains outside, it rains in the mechanical room,” he said. “Years of leakage have rusted out the metal beams that support the front of the building, and it’s gotten to the point where something has to be done. It’s absolutely dangerous.”

That portion of the project is estimated at $223,000. In addition, $268,000 is projected for Police Department remodeling; $154,000 for Fire Department renovations; and $110,000 for roof repairs.

The plan at the Police Department is to tear out the old jail behind the records office and construct administrative offices, which are currently located in a separate building under the fire station. The former administration offices will then be made into storage and training rooms to be shared by the police and fire departments.

“The administration offices now have some extensive leaking issues, and that’s really what started this whole project is when we had an engineer and a foundation specialist look at the police station to see how we could stop the water,” Whetstone said. “We determined it’s actually less expensive to move them to the new area than to fix where they are now.”

At the Fire Department, Whetstone said they hope to add a downstairs office, restroom and laundry room, refurbish the upstairs bedroom and hallway and build a women’s restroom. They also want to install insulated doors for the fire trucks and refurbish the windows in the fire station to be more energy efficient and avoid foundation issues.

Finally, roof repairs would fix leaks and replace bad insulation in multiple locations, and waterproofing the exterior brick, fixing building cracks and recoating the windows is also included.

Most of these areas have not been touched since the building was constructed in 1972, Whetstone said, and although the repairs come with a hefty price tag, they will extend the life of the building and save money in other areas.

“All of this work, even though it’s not included in the energy payback from Trane, will have some energy effects,” Whetstone said.

The final half million of the project will go toward a new fire truck after one of the current trucks was deemed unreliable because of some mechanical issues.

Financing options for these projects include a 10-year plan for the fire truck, and 15- to 20- year plans for the two renovation portions. Finance Manager Karen Beane said they have talked with AmFund, SunTrust and GCC so far and are looking at about a 3 percent interest rate. They hope to have a plan to present to the City Council at its March 18 work session.

At a council work session Monday night, councilmen seemed to support the full project, though City Clerk Patricia Carden said they could prioritize certain tasks if necessary.

“My thought is its going to happen; it’s just a matter of when,” said Council President Rocky Lucas. “If we don’t do it this way, we’re going to be breaking it into $50,000 chunks from our general fund, and it may not be even fixing anything, just patching. This way, we can fix it and it’s done.”

The council will not vote on this project at today’s meeting, but will vote on a $6,000 asbestos study of City Hall that must be conducted before any of the suggested work occurs. Also on the agenda is a resolution for a vote on Sunday alcohol sales, a $5,000 allocation to the Marble Festival, a $3,500 project to repair drainage and sinkhole issues on Quarry Road and Jackson Avenue and other items.

The council meets at 9 a.m.

Contact Emily Adams at

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