City Councilors Question Cost-Effectiveness of City Hall Building

Councilor GT Bynum delved back into the issue of new City Hall's costs at a meeting Thursday.

Bynum said the top tier downtown space costs about $5 million per year, whereas old City Hall sold for about a million dollars. He wanted more information about its cost-effectiveness, compared with the building's projections.

"When you hear about, oh, our occupancy rate in this building is so fantastic, it's good because the city is using more space than we were supposed to be using in this building when we agreed to purchase it," Bynum said.

The building is 95 percent occupied. Bynum said councilors voted in 2007 to move into the new space and planned to lessen city hall's footprint on Tulsa. This new space actually occupies about 20 percent more square feet than the older space.

The council welcomed Director of Economic Development Clay Bird to the meeting.

The city has been leasing space to help cut costs. Bird said the leasing process is going well. He said the city signed a 15-year lease with a company to cover a couple floors in the building. He said the lease price will cover the cost of the floors, and after 2029, the company can own that space for a dollar. Several councilors questioned that decision, wondering whether selling space or continuing to lease it is more cost-effective.

Bynum wants councilors to consider moving city hall into another space entirely, to create more room in the budget for issues like public safety.

Councilor Jack Henderson originally voted in favor of the move in 2007. He said if he had known that the city would be making deals like this, he likely would have voted against it.

The council will discuss the issue again in executive session next week.