Hamilton County may move some of its governmental operations to the former Chattanooga Gas Co. building.
On Wednesday, the Hamilton County Commission will vote whether to pay $3.1 million for the 26-year-old, two-story building on Preservation Drive in the Bonny Oaks Office and Industrial Park. The building measures 22,390 square feet and comes with a 14,000-square-foot warehouse and 8 acres of property.
In a recent meeting, county public works administrator Todd Leamon told commissioners the site gives the county a great alternative for housing departments now located downtown in the 100-year-old Newell Tower and the nearby information technology department building.
"It would basically replace a 1915 building and a building built around the early 1980s — that was built for the [computer] mainframe era — [and] replace those with a 1991 building in a better, centrally located area of the county," Leamon said.
The downtown IT building has a lot of underused space because of its outdated mainframe configuration, while the Bonny Oaks site office provides a number of core essentials, including built-in communications capacity and back-up power, he said.
"There are two generators out at that location which would provide some redundant power that we currently don't have at the existing facility," Leamon said. "We believe this is in the best interest for the county to do."
Commissioner Joe Graham focused on what the county would spend if it sticks with Newell Tower and the IT building.
"If we were to try to stay in those buildings and just try to make do with what we have, there's got to be a boatload of money spent on those buildings just to keep them habitable," Graham said.
Leamon cited more than $1.8 million in needed repairs and renovations for stairwells, lighting and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, plus more for roof and basement work.
The county would spend up to $2 million in the short term and more over several years just to get the downtown buildings close to what the Bonny Oaks site already has, he said.
Commissioner Chester Bankston, who toured the building with Commission Vice Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley last week, gave high marks to the former gas company facility.
"Of course, being an old electrician, I wanted to see all the equipment rooms, and I found them to be top-of-the-line equipment put in originally," Bankston said. "Everything that we looked at looked good, everything worked good. I was really proud to see the building in the shape it's in. It's really top-notch."
The relocation plan will not send all Newell Tower personnel to the Bonny Oaks building, Leamon said. The auditor's office will go to the county's McDaniel Building.
The county plans to sell the downtown buildings when they are vacated.
Leamon estimated moving costs will be another $200,000.
"We have a number of departments that are going in a number of directions," he said.
Leamon said the purchase would not take place before fire hydrant manufacturer Mueller, which leases the second floor of the Bonny Oaks space, moves out in the winter.
The county trustee's office and the Air Pollution Control Board, which lease first-floor space at the building, will stay, he said.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.