WARREN - By an 8-2 vote from City Council, Warren administrators were granted permission to buy the Gibson Building for $2.5 million.
Council members Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, and Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, voted against the purchase of the building, each citing the purchase price as the reason.
"I struggled for days in making this decision," Colbert said. "I believe the administration did their due diligence. I do not believe there is a better alternative. However, I could not justify the $2.5 million cost,'' Colbert said.
''If one of my constituents would have pulled me aside and asked me why I voted for it, I would not have been able to explain my vote," he said.
Saffold reminded her fellow council members that she was one of the first people who suggested the Gibson building as an alternative site during last year's discussions of spending $10.5 million to build a One-Stop building.
However, the councilwoman also believes that $2.5 million is too high of a price.
Although voting against this legislation, after it was completed, Saffold yelled, "Good riddance to 418 Main."
The city wants to move the income tax, community development and health department offices out of 418 S. Main Ave. S.W. and into the Gibson Building, 258 E. Market St. The current office building on South Main Street is considered unsafe and too costly to renovate.
Councilwoman Helen Rucker described receiving calls from seven constituents who wanted to talk to her both about the Gibson Building and the DiPaolo Industrial Development LLC offer to sell the city a portion of the former Delphi plant on Dana Street for $4.25 million. The company said that their offer would be cheaper considering renovations needed to the Gibson Building.
"After I gave them background on the Delphi building, the presentation that was given to council and explained my position on the purchase of the Gibson building, I did not speak to anyone who was not in agreement," she said. "They were pleased the council stood its ground on shortening the length of time for the bond repayments."
Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, said he was taught by former Councilman Herb Laukhart that serving on council is about the art of compromise for the citizens.
"If not this building, then what building?" he said. "What I am surprised with is our employees in 418 Main has not sued us."
Brown said the city began this process with discussions about building a $10.5 million One-Stop and is ending with a beautiful building at one-fourth of the price.
"I believe this eventually will be the One-Stop," he said.
A One-Stop building would mean having city offices under one roof.
Councilman Vince Flask, D-5th Ward, said he received one phone call about the Gibson Building.
"I was told do not contemplate anything but the downtown location," he said. "We often get opportunities to spend taxpayer dollars. This is not just an opportunity to make an investment."
Councilman Jim Valesky, D-at large, who last week voted against approving the purchase as an emergency, said he was pleased the council went through three votes.
"We brought out a few questions that had not been answered that I believe now have been answered," he said.
After the vote, Mayor Doug Franklin said this vote will allow the city to move out of one of the city's most challenging buildings.
"This will demonstrate to people who come to our city to do business that we are a city on the move," he said.
Franklin the next step is to talk to the listing agent and sign the final paperwork for the sale.
Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the city will get a space planner into the building and determine the footprint of each of the departments that will move into the building.
"We would not do anything until this (vote) was done," Cantalamessa said. "Some of the building is unfinished."
While he hopes the city can move all of the departments into the Gibson Building before the first of the year, Cantalamessa described that timeline as optimistic.
A lot of space in each of the departments at 418 Main St. is taken up with records, Cantalamessa said. The departments will begin looking at record reductions.
"The tax department already is starting to do it," he said. "This would be a good time for the other departments to begin doing the same. The less we have to move the better."
Cantalamessa said there has not been a dollar figures on the cost of repairing the building's roof or caulking different seams.
Although the administration has $500,000 available in the bond approved by council for the building's purchase, Cantalamessa hopes they will not have to use that amount for either the move or repairs on the building.
Sergio DiPaolo on Tuesday said if the council voted for the Gibson building he would have to consider tearing down the buildings on the Delphi site. They waited to make their decisions on what to do with the location to give the city and tax payers an opportunity for business development.
"We would have been glad to have considered his effort if he had brought it to us after the proposed building already had been built," Franklin said.