Fairhope Civic Center roof needs $1 million fix

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/17/22

FAIRHOPE — A replacement for the Fairhope Civic Center and City Hall complex is planned for the next five to 10 years, but repairs for the current building's roof, estimated at $1 million, will …

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Fairhope Civic Center roof needs $1 million fix

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FAIRHOPE — A replacement for the Fairhope Civic Center and City Hall complex is planned for the next five to 10 years, but repairs for the current building's roof, estimated at $1 million, will not wait that long, city officials said.

Richard Johnson, Fairhope public works director, said the roof is leaking in areas such as the Civic Center auditorium and Delchamps conference room. He said a study of the structure in April found that all the needed repairs and renovations would cost about $1 million.

He told city council members at a work session Monday, Aug. 8, that the costs could be more now.

"When you add them all up, closing in on $1 million and knowing that this report was produced back in April and what does that $1 million cost today? It could be more than $1 million," Johnson said. "Do we want to do the immediate needs first and then plan for it over the next several budget years, or is it one of those, rip off the Band Aid and let's get the roof system at least that covers the heated and cooled portions addressed in its entirety either through replacement, repair and restoration?"

He said the last major work on the roof over the enclosed part of the building was in 2000.

"It was a 20-year roof system and it's 2022," he said. "It is an issue that needs to be addressed."

The building was constructed as a supermarket before being taken over by the city in the 1980s.

Council President Jimmy Conyers said officials must decide how much money to put into an aging building.

"I think when you start talking about $1 million for a roof, you've also got to take into the conversation about the whole picture of the Civic Center," Conyers said. "I know we get a lot of mileage out of it. It's served us very well and we still get a ton of use, but if we're going to spend seven figures, I think that's a conversation, council members, whether we want to or not, we probably need to take into consideration what route to go."

Councilman Jay Robinson said the building is still used for many community events and needs to be maintained.

"You can't just bulldoze this building and start fresh because there's too much that goes into this building, that's done in this building, that you can't do without, but some phased approach of build out front, then kind of gradually move back," Robinson said. "You have to house Mardi Gras here. It's going to take some strategic thinking to do that, if, and when, that decision is made to do something like that, but it's a conversation at this point that's got to be had at some point."

Councilman Corey Martin said the city has many other financial needs that should take a priority over work on a building that's being considered for replacement.

"Personally, I don't think that would be, in my opinion, that would be a good investment," Martin said.

Councilman Jack Burrell said a new civic center is part of city long-range plans for the next five to 10 years. Council members asked Johnson to get estimates on what different levels of repair would cost that might keep the center in service until the city replaces the structure.

Burrell said that while other projects are planned, such as a new performing arts center in the Fairhope K-1 building, some money should be spent to keep the Civic Center running.

"I know you don't want to spend $1 million, but if you're talking about something that will get us through seven or eight years, or six or eight years, it's not a terrible investment," Burrell said.

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