SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Is it financial mismanagement or smart business? The city is selling three buildings and moving employees into a rental property.
Eventually, the city wants to build a public safety and municipal complex down the road. The mayor said putting these properties on the market sets that plan in motion.
Several people reached out to WTOC asking us to get to the bottom of the city's plans for these buildings. The mayor firmly believes this decision is a good one for taxpayers.
The Broughton Municipal Building sits on one of the most valuable pieces of property in the city. It's right on the corner of a bustling sector of Savannah's tourism and business industry. Soon, it could be a storefront.
"It's a perfect time for us to give somebody else an opportunity to make that into a profitable, tax-paying facility that will benefit everybody," said Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach.
The mayor said the plan to sell the Broughton building, the Gamble building, and the Liberty Street building comes at a good time. All require multi-million-dollar renovations he doesn't want to pay for now.
"We're not going to spend the kind of money on the Gamble building. They've been patching on that building for years, and I don't want to continue to patch on it," Mayor DeLoach said. "Property values right now are as high as they're going to be. Why not take advantage of that?"
Most city employees will work in a building on Chatham Parkway for the time being. The city plans to build a public safety and municipal complex in the future. There's no information yet on where that would be.
"We do feel like that it would make it more efficient and make our government run a lot better," DeLoach said. "It's obviously a savings for everybody if we can consolidate these people into close proximity to each other."
The Downtown Business Association is in favor of the move. The association's president said it's good for downtown business and the economy.
"We're very fortunate to have a lot of interest from both local businesses looking to expand and outside investors looking to get in," said Karen Guinn, the DBA president. "I doubt that those properties will sit for very long."
One person against this idea is Alderman Tony Thomas. He is the only alderman who voted against selling the Gamble building. In a Facebook post, he said, "we're getting rid of a completely paid for historic city building by swapping it for an enormous rent that will eat up any money made by giving it to the Morris Family over the next 5 years."
We're still waiting to see how much rent is for the building the city is using now off Chatham Parkway. The city is waiting on the appraisals for all three buildings to be sent to them. Even by conservative estimates, the properties are worth millions of dollars.
This year, state lawmakers passed a bill overhauling the way local governments sell their surplus properties. If the governor signs the bill into law, the city can hire a real estate broker to help with the sale. Right now, they put the properties out for a public bid.
You can read the full bill below: