A Jefferson County official is furious with the lack of maintenance at his offices and wants Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration to do more to address the needs of city buildings.
This comes as the Louisville Metro Council is looking at fixing the malfunctioning escalators at the Hall of Justice, which has been a headache for visitors and public officials over the past few years.
An official with the Public Works department estimates it could cost up to $4 million to replace the escalator system, but that may just be the beginning of the price tag to fix the city’s aging infrastructure as other government buildings are in serious need of repair.
Built in the 1930s, the Fiscal Court Building located at Sixth and Market Streets is one of the most-visited government buildings in the city. It houses the some of the county attorney and clerk’s staff along with the Jefferson County sheriff’s office, where gun registration, real estate liens and property tax collection services are processed.
The building has significant water damage and electrical problems. Not to mention gaping holes in the wall and broken windows fixed with duct tape.
“Our building has basically run its cycle and probably needs to be in the graveyard,” says Jefferson County Public Value Administrator Tony Lindauer, who was forced to move his offices from the fourth to fifth floor. “When you turn on some computers or you plug in something the, the circuits blow. That and the fact we have a boiler system that’s out of date. I’ve had to send people home because it was so cold in the building. It constantly breaks down.”
PVA employees who work in the building complain of fumes coming off of the radiators due to the wrong paint being applied. Others work next to festering mold in their offices, and take issue with poorly lit fire escape stairwells and air conditioners that barely hanging from the windows.
A slideshow the inside parts of the Fiscal Court building:
Across the street from the Fiscal Court things are a bit brighter at City Hall, which is a much older building that mainly houses the council chambers and the offices of city lawmakers.
Over the years, council presidents have made improvements to the building, including cosmetic and safety renovations.
In 2010, the main entrance was spruced up and reopened. A year later, work began on replacing a fire escape that dated back to the 1940s.
Council chambers and the third floor lobby have been given a facelift including energy efficient lighting, and there are plans to further renovate those offices this winter.
City Hall isn’t without its maintenance issues, however. Currently one of the two elevators are inoperative after council members and other visitors complained of being stuck.
“You’re looking at a lot of situations where whenever you’ve had tight economic times you try to let maintenance go as much as you possibly can,” says Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt. “The question really becomes: do you go and build a brand new building? Do you have the money coming out of a recession to do that? Or what’s the best way to address the need and the concern.”
The council benefits from being a separate branch of government that has more control over its building than other city and county officials.
Earlier this year, however, the council appropriated $600,000 in city bonds to renovate two floors of the Fiscal Court building. The work had been scheduled to address many of the problems Lindauer’s staff deals with, but the mayor stepped in and shifted half of those funds over to other projects.
“The council did add some money in for the Fiscal Court building, but our message to them has been that we have many other needs ahead of the Fiscal Court building. So we’re not going to be spending the money on that project,” says mayoral spokesman Chris Poynter.
Other facilities in need of repair include the Urban County Government Center and the Air Pollution Control District buildings on Barret Avenue, which both have “major water damage” according to Poynter.
“We have many, many needs and few dollars to go around so we have to make hard decisions about what gets funded first,” he says.
Some on Lindauer’s staff pointed out to WFPL News during a tour of the building that when the mayor’s office flooded due to a broken pipe, construction crews were on the scene to fix that space up within days.
“I can’t do the mayor’s job (and) I’m not here to do the mayor’s job,” says Lindauer. “I’m here to serve the public and to try to have my working staff in a decent facility where they’re not dealing with mold and leakage. The public deserves better than what we have. It’s really pathetic.”