Council tours future city hall

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2003

A tour of the former East Three Notch Elementary School building, which will be the eventual home of the new Andalusia City Hall, on Thursday allowed members of the media, as well as Mayor Earl Johnson and Project Manager Andy Wiggins, to see firsthand the progress being made on the facility.

The tour was led by Kevin Jarman, who is the superintendent of ZeDOT, the construction firm handling the project.

And although a person without imagination may have trouble seeing beyond the piles of dirt and the scattered timber to visualize what will eventually what will be amenities such as the new office for Johnson and the new council chambers, Johnson said he is pleased with how the new facility is shaping up.

"I am very satisfied and it's looking better everyday," said Johnson, who noted that all city offices will be housed in the building except for the police department and municipal court.

"You can now actually begin to see and visualize what the finished product is going to look like. I am very excited and ZeDOT is doing a wonderful job."

Johnson said the construction is actually "overbuilding" the facility in order to ensure the safest building possible and a building that have a greater longevity.

"The facility when it is completed in my opinion will be much stronger than it was when it was built in 1914, so we're excited about it," said Johnson.

There have been some concerns raised by several citizens regarding the building's safety, but Johnson said he is totally confident about the condition of the facility.

"The building has been designed by a licensed architect and it has also been worked on by a structural engineer," said Johnson. "The building has been examined with a fine-tooth comb and our city inspectors look at it on a daily basis. I have talked with our building inspectors and they tell me that ZeDOT folks call and ask them to inspect more than any other construction site they've ever had in this town. To me, that is a good sign that your contractor wants a good product. The truth of the matter is they are overbuilding this job, but I would rather have a building that's overbuilt than underbuilt. I think this building will be stouter, will have good materials in it and good construction techniques and good design. I don't think there is any question that it will be one of the finest buildings in Andalusia when it is completed."

Johnson said it would not make sense for the city to build a structurally unsafe building, which might in turn lead to problems regarding liability and perhaps other problems down the road.

"I think the people of Andalusia know me and this council and the people that run this city well enough to know that we don't do anything halfway and with half measures," said Johnson. "We do it right or we don't do it, so if we didn't have the resources to put this building back in better than first class condition, we just wouldn't do it, it's that simple."

The mayor said he feels the new building will much more conducive for city employees.

"(The building) will also be better for the citizens to do business with the city, and I think the citizens will start getting more excited about it when they see some of the exterior work such as landscaping and parking lots and some of the redesign that will take place on the west side of the building," said Johnson. "They can't really see what is going on inside, but it will get pretty before it gets finished."

Jarman and Wiggins both said they are equally encouraged about the progress of the building project.

"I think (the project) is ahead of schedule and it's going great," said Jarman. "All of (the workers on the project) are really pulling together and doing what they need to do. The mayor and (Wiggins) and the city have all been great to work with. McKee and Associates have been a great architectural firm to work with.

Jarman added that if the weather and other factors cooperate, the building should be completed by sometime in August, which would be a much sooner date than the city had anticipated. Some of the members of the city council had previously stated that they hoped to be in the new facility by November.

He emphasized the building itself will be a safe one.

"The building is very structurally sound and the walls have been moved, the structural engineer has oversized and calculated everything," said Jarman.

"The project is going very well and the crews from ZeDOT and McKee and Associates and everybody that we've worked with have just been outstanding," said Wiggins. "Before we ever started the project, the building was gutted and that gives the engineers and architects the opportunity to really come in and really do good structural analysis on the building, and the integrity of the building is sound. There is no problem with that. Everything that is done here is done in accordance with the code if not above the code. Everything that were trying to do, we're trying to preserve this building for another 150 years. And the route we're going now, there is no doubt that it will last another 150 years."

Wiggins said he is starting to get a feel for how the new city hall will look.

"I have been (at the project site) since day one, so I can see what the finished product will look like."