Saturday, June 30, 2007

Goverment Center renovations to be completed in 2009, but is it enough?

A recent story in the Herald News reported that the ongoing repairs and renovation to Fall River's Government Center are now projected to be completed in 2009. Originally the completion date was either 2007 or 2008.

The delays are due to more extensive repairs needed than originally realized. Apparently the steel trusses that make up the overpass, and support the building over the highway, were far more corroded than anticipated.

The issues with the Government Center 'tunnel' came to light in 1999
when concrete ceiling tiles came crashing down on route 195 below. Thankfully no one was hurt but the ensuing investigation found that no one had inspected the tunnel in over 20 years! It seems for some odd reason the state felt that the city was responsible for the tunnel, while the city correctly pointed out that it didn't have the authority to shut down a highway in order to do inspections and repairs.

The city was preparing to do work to the Government Center facade and plaza before the accident, work that has had to be delayed until after the state completed repairs to the tunnel. Once those repairs are completed the city will repair and renovate the plaza and, install new handicap ramps, replace the brick pavers with colored concrete, add new trees and shrubbery and power wash the building. The city will also install an elevator in the city council chambers for public use and has enclosed the walkway between the chambers and the Government Center lobby. The entire cost of the project is estimated at 15 million, with roughly 2/3 of that the cost of repairing the tunnel.
Lefty's view: For just about a decade Fall River residents and visitors have been treated to stained and crumbling concrete, police tape, construction fencing and a Government Center that no one is proud of. The planned improvements for Government Center are much welcomed, much needed and much overdue. While some believe that we should cut our losses and relocate city government to a new location, the reality is a city hall has a projected price tag of over 30 million dollars, far exceeding the roughly 5 million the city is putting into the repairs and improvements to the existing building and remember the 10 million being spent by the state is for the overpass and has little to do with the building above it. If anything we should spend more on Government Center! While it will be nice to drive by a clean and renovated city hall the interior of Government Center is worn, dated, and in need of repair. Let's find ways now to brighten up the lobby, replace worn carpets, paint walls and gut and redo what needs to be done. Let's find the funding now, so that in 2009 Government Center continues to look good after you've walked through the door.

**As I no longer have access to the Herald News archive articles much of this is from memory, I apologize for any inaccuracies.

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