Moving Costs for City Hall Keeps Growing

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Des Moines City Council approved a lease agreement last December for a building to be used for the temporary relocation of City Hall staff.

Employees will be temporarily housed at 400 East Court Ave. while the City Hall and Grand Avenue Bridge are under construction.

The city agreed that the landlord would construct improvements to the leased space at the city's expense, and that expense is higher than originally thought.

“We feel confident that there will be a surplus in the operating budget, in the general fund budget, for the current year, fiscal year 16, that would more than cover the additional cost of the move,” Des Moines city manager Scott Sanders said.

The city had originally estimated the cost of improvements to its temporary home to be about $175,000. Now, that cost is over $550,000.

“With our $180 million budget, just I want you to recall that that that would be a very, very small percentage,” Sanders said.

Councilman Chris Coleman doesn’t like it.

“It’s not really the way we’d spend money at home. The bid came in almost three times what the estimate was, and for that reason I thought we should spend more time trying to cut the budget instead of just throwing more money at it,” Coleman said.

The over half a million dollars will be paid to Icon Construction for tenant improvements at Capitol Center.

Then, there’s the cost to move.

“We would hire, in addition to that, a company to help move. It was $50,000 to get over there, we’d presumably have about the same cost to move back,” Coleman said.

Councilman Joe Gatto isn't a fan of this process, saying it has been done backwards. The city is putting the cart before the horse he said, and it is not a good way to spend taxpayer money.

“It’s something that I feel should have been up front, before we rented a building, before we decided to do this. These are the things that should have been on the table back in December, before we went and signed a lease for a particular building,” Gatto said. "We have all the expenses related to this building here. We have expenses at the Municipal Service Center, which is where the council and some other employees are moving to. You add it all up -- the budget’s grown way beyond what we originally said yes to, and I think at some point, as representatives of the citizens, we have to just stand up and vote, ‘No.’ And I did.”

The City Council passed measures that authorized payment for the improvements and the cost of moving. Coleman and Gatto were the only two council members who voted against the agenda items.

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