The Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. board voted Monday to award a $1.5 million contract for an administrative office building on Laney-Walker Boulevard.
The board voted 9-2 to award the contract to Pat Mathis Construction Co., of Savannah, which submitted a low bid of $1.49 million. Board members Paul Menk and Bill Thompson voted no.
The building will be financed through a $737,000 loan from SouthTrust Bank and $938,169 from the corporation - funded by state money.
ANIC will occupy the third floor of the planned building at 925 Laney-Walker Blvd. and lease the other space to the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development Department and fire department administration. The fire department's lease is for one year; the housing department's lease is for three years.
Mr. Menk said he could not vote in favor of the project because of the low return on the corporation's money.
"We're not even earning 4 percent from our $938,169," he said. "We're taking a lot of risk with a little bitty return. I think we're rushing this."
Mr. Thompson and Mr. Menk said they were concerned the city would pull the departments out of the building when the leases expire, leaving the corporation without rental income.
"I have a lot of reservations," Mr. Thompson said. "The city is expanding the government center. ... We're dealing with state funds. We've got to be responsible."
Mr. Thompson said he was concerned that the corporation was diverging from its original mission of economic development and venturing into commercial real estate.
"I'm not very comfortable going forward," he said.
Board member Charles Bartholomew said the ANIC offices - which are now in the Lamar Building on Broad Street - should be in a building where the revitalization effort is taking place.
Member Cedric Johnson said there is a need for office space in the Laney-Walker Boulevard area anyway.
"I see this as a stimulus for economic development for the area," he said. "If the city moves out, there are doctors and other professionals that could move in."
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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