Walkway between TEE Center and parking deck in limbo
by Eric Johnson
Just when the saga of the TEE Center parking garage seemed finally over, Administrator Fred Russell came before the Engineering Services Committee requesting a path forward for the construction of an elevated walkway connecting the two buildings. In doing so, he may have given commissioners the clearest indication yet about the status of the deck itself.
The deck has been at the center of several controversies. Most significantly, commissioners have doubted whether or not the city actually owns the deck. After initially being told the land for the deck was being donated, the agreement changed to allow for more advantageous funding. As a result, the city owned the air rights, but not the ground floor of the parking deck, something that troubled more than a few commissioners.
As part of the recently approved management agreement, Russell was asked to come up with a plan for the walkway which, as he described it, would go from the second floor of the parking deck to the second floor of the soon to be completed TEE Center.
Both buildings were developed to support such an option.
“What we’d like to do, if this is acceptable, is go ahead and adjust the contract with RW Allen,” Russell said. “They’re already mobilized and the savings would be significant if we were to use them.”
The projected cost of the project would be about $1.3 million, which he said would be a substantial savings if done as a change order to the original contract.
According to Russell, there is still enough money in the parking deck fund to cover the cost of the walkway.
Commissioner Alvin Mason, who had been absent for several weeks worth of meetings, wondered if traffic warranted spending $1.3 million, while Commissioner J.R. Hatney, a frequent critic of the parking deck, complained at the way the project had escalated over the course of time as well as what he considered a continued lack of information about the ownership status of the building.
In the past, Hatney had tangled with Russell and the city’s TEE Center attorney over things he considered deceitful.
“At what juncture are we going to be given some evidence that the so called deal you’re refereeing to is actually the truth?” he asked. “I would hope we’d see some of that [evidence] before we spent more money.”
Commissioner Bill Locket was even more pointed.
“Mr. Administrator,” he asked. “Do we own the parking deck?”
Russell answered in the affirmative and eventually clarified the status.
“At the end of the day, we will own the deck as we already own the area above the ground,” he said. “The Land Bank will have the rights to the property and that will all be under the control of the city.”
Hatney, however, continued to reject that idea that there was any valid explanation of the parking deck.
“I think it’s an insult to this body to continue to bring this stuff here to keep spending more money on something that we don’t have a clue whether we really own,” he said.
Eventually, the entire matter was forwarded to the commission without recommendation.You Might Also Like: