After City Council purchased a rundown parking garage for $3 Million to give themselves better parking, Zero Experience Zach is making it palatial with a sandstone & granite exterior and a state-of-the-art gym for Council members and City executives. The total price tag is $10 Million in taxpayer dollars–and counting!
Check out the Dispatch editorial below:
Friday May 6, 2016 5:00 AM
If Columbus leaders can’t see what’s wrong with paying top dollar — more than $10 million — to buy and renovate a ramshackle Downtown garage so that city executives might have free parking and a short walk, then they are deficient in more than math.
The money for this ongoing six-year project came out of the city’s capital improvements budget, which draws from the 25 cents set aside from every dollar of city income-tax revenues to pay for repairs and projects. Here’s how it typically works: Neighborhoods plead for years with City Hall to get their projects slated for funding — say, getting new playground equipment at a park, adding sidewalks along busy roads or replacing sewers so that basements don’t flood. Hardworking city workers do the same thing when, for instance, firefighters need safer breathing apparatus.
Take the Waggoner Road fire station, planned to serve a high-growth area. Far East Side residents currently rely upon neighboring fire departments if their homes are burning or Pop has a heart attack, because the nearest Columbus firehouse is miles away. Columbus bought land for a firehouse a decade ago, but construction dollars were budgeted only this year.
So Columbus couldn’t find $8.5 million to better handle emergencies, but it could scrape together $10 million for the Downtown parking garage at 98 N. Front St., by the government campus.
City officials say the free parking and the garage are needed to retain and attract top employees. Pray then, just what kind of professionals must Franklin County government suffer with? Their employees pay market rate for a spot in the public courthouse garages.
The city’s 402-space garage is an expensive blunder.
In total, the public spent $33,000 per parking space, or $10,000 more per space than local developers and parking analysts estimated a new garage would cost.
Assistant City Finance Director Dan Giangardella has devised the cost at only $22,000 per space. That’s because he puts structural repairs in one column and renovations or upgrades — including $750,000 for an employee gym and two small offices on the ground floor — in a separate column. He also discounts costs such as the repair consultants.
For the average Joe, that’s fancy math. But at City Hall, this “was a great deal,” Giangardella said. “The city purchased a ready-to-use asset that solved a number of long-term parking problems.”
How, exactly, was this garage ready to use? The city bought the garage for $3 million in 2010. It then spent $2.2 million to repair concrete pillars, floors, “unforeseen structural deterioration” and drainage; $3 million to build the fitness center, remove hazardous materials, renovate stairwells and install lighting and a security system; and $250,000 to replace structural beams and ancient garage doors that were too heavy to lift.
And the work goes on: In December, the city council granted $1.75 million to clad the garage with granite, sandstone and brick.
No business would undertake such a project without knowing the total investment required and weighing cheaper options, such as subsidizing parking in private garages, or partnering with COTA.
City workers are likely happy to have great parking. And it’s rich that the city spent money to build a workout facility in a garage that was purchased so that employees wouldn’t have to walk farther.
But taxpayers who voted in 2009 to raise income taxes to preserve vital services might have never guessed that, a year later, some of that money would be spent so wastefully.