GALLIPOLIS — “It hasn’t always been easy, it hasn’t always been pleasant, but those days are behind us.”
These words stated by outgoing Gallipolis City Commissioner Jim Cozza on Tuesday evening at the dedication ceremony for the new Gallipolis Municipal Building may be the best way to describe the decades of discussion, planning, design and re-design that it has taken to complete new municipal facilities in the City of Gallipolis.
Cozza, who has served on the city commission since 2005, previously served as the city commission president from 2008-2011, has observed the most recent discussions surrounding the construction of new facilities for the Gallipolis Municipal Court, Gallipolis Police Department, and the city’s administrative offices.
The Gallipolis Justice Center, which was officially opened late last year, houses the court, police department and city solicitor’s office, while, Tuesday’s ceremony marked the opening of the municipal building at 333 Third Avenue, the new home for the city’s water, tax, auditor’s, city manager’s and code enforcement offices.
“Common sense and good judgment prevailed, and after considering a lot of options and a lot of different locations and types of buildings, we think we’ve come up with two good answers to the needs of the city, and, in the case of the municipal court building, to the needs of the court, police and the solicitor. So, we’ll pat ourselves on the back a little bit,” Cozza said. “This building is well constructed. I think it will last the citizens probably longer than a lot of us will be around to utilize it. It’s been a bumpy road, but we finally got the right people, and we got it right, and I think that folks that are residents of the city and those that use these facilities should be pleased about what they’re getting for what money they’ve spent to do it.”
The new municipal building that was constructed on city-owned property in the downtown municipal parking area, features a drive-through window for the use of residents wishing to pay their water bills, as well as exterior public restrooms for downtown pedestrians and a large conference room for city commission meetings.
“This is the people’s building. It doesn’t belong to the five of us, and if the people have need to use it, we want to make it available for folks to utilize,” Cozza said.
Current City Commission President Jay Cremeens also spoke briefly and discussed the old municipal building at 518 Second Avenue that, prior to its demolition in June 2011, had become a hazard to the employees who worked there as well as to the members of the public who visited.
“The building at 518 Second Avenue had outlived its purpose. It was at the point that a city employee was going to get injured or a member of the community was going to get hurt inside there. So we took it upon ourselves to start planning for a replacement,” Cremeens said.
Cremeens also discussed several phases of planning that the commission went through in developing a strategy to construct a new municipal building, including constructing a large all-in-one facility that would house the court, police and administrative offices; however, this idea was scrapped due to the associated costs.
Several locations were also discussed by the commission, Cremeens reported, and after thoughtful planning the 333 Third Avenue site was selected for the new administrative offices for several reasons, not the least of which was its proximity to the downtown area.
I want to assure you that this commission has never lost interest at all in our downtown. So, we thought, since we own this property, it should be a place where we build our administration building,” Cremeens said. “We never wanted to turn our backs on merchants. We hope this brings some additional foot traffic downtown for our storefronts.”
Cremeens, who echoed the sentiments of his fellow commissioners, also discussed his pride in being able to take part in a portion of the city’s history through the construction of two new public facilities over the past several months.
“You could search cities throughout history and never find the occasion where two nice facilities were dedicated in the span of five months,” Cremeens said. “It was indeed a pleasure to be a part of this planning.”
City Commission Vice-President Steve Wallis also spoke briefly of his satisfaction in being able to take part in such a project and also gave his thanks to the city employees who have endured several moves and who have been anxiously awaiting the new facilities.
“Gallipolis is blessed,” Wallis said. “Our citizens have absolutely been 100 percent supportive of us putting these projects together and it has been a rough road. I just want to thank all the citizens for their help and input and all the employees. They’ve endured a lot over the last few years to be in the facilities that they are. We are very proud of this building and I’m sure you are too, to be able to come to and work out of it.”
Commissioners Matt Johnson and Mike Brown both discussed the strides toward economic growth that they have observed recently within the city, including the dedication of two new facilities for the city.
“I think we’re at a place where we are going to see a lot of good things start to roll. We want to see more building. We want to see more development, and I think we’re putting ourselves in a position to make that change happen,” Johnson said.
The newest member of the commission, Brown, thanked those who attended Tuesday evening’s ribbon cutting ceremony and also gave his positive hope for the future of the city.
“There will be a lot of other things to see, I think, in a positive way coming forth in the next few months and in the years, hopefully, down the road,” Brown said.
Project Engineer Randy Breech was also on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday evening and discussed his long-time role in the development of this project — a history that spans over a 19-year period.
Breech reported that in all the years he has worked with the city concerning plans for new municipal complex, he has presented 17 proposals for a new building at many different locations throughout the city to the many different city administrations that have served throughout the years.
“Looking back, as they say, at the end of the day here, now that we have these two buildings, the square footage between the two is approximately what we’ve been looking at for several years,” Breech said. “I know when they’ve brought in architects in the past, numbers of four to six to eight million dollars have been thrown around to give you the court facilities, these facilities, the police facilities, and I think, with everything considered, and that material prices are what they are, for their three million dollars the city has done very, very well. That’s just not because of me, that’s because of decisions that have been made, all the way around, and in past administrations. Everybody has had an input in this thing and it’s all come to fruition.”
Gallipolis City Manager Randy Finney, who began his duties with the city approximately three and half years ago, stated that constructing a new court and administrative facility became a priority his first day on the job at the old facility at 518 Second Avenue.
“This has been a long journey,” Finney stated. “[The old facility] was unsafe and this is something that really needed done, and I really thank the commissioners for stepping forward. It has been a long time coming.”
Finney, who stated that he found plans for a new municipal building at his old office dating back to 1985, also thanked the late Joe Woodall who dedicated many years to the city and, working most recently as a project coordinator, was instrumental in planning for the two new facilities.
“He was a part of this organization for many, many years and he helped drive a lot of what happened with this building. He didn’t see the completion of it, but he did see the start of it. We do thank him for what he did for us and we thank his family,” Finney said.
The city manager also thanked the contractor on the municipal building project, Hoon, Inc., of Athens. According to Finney, change orders with the new facility were kept to a minimum.
Of the approximately $52,000 in change orders, approximately $46,000, was related directly to groundwork — work that, according to Finney, the city knew would be problematic with this project.
The remaining change orders were minimal, Finney stated.
“There’s probably about $6,000 or $8,000 in change orders above this for what we did on the project. For a $750,000 project, that’s pretty good,” Finney said. “Hoon did a really excellent job. They worked well with us and did what they needed to do.
“I think we have a very nice facility here to take advantage of, and the public can use this facility and take advantage of it also,” Finney said.