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Kingsport city hall may be moving; officials examining costs to city

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Kingsport officials are considering moving the city hall and consolidating several other departments with it, potentially saving the city more than $4 million.

The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 7-0 to send a non-binding letter of interest to purchase the Regions Bank building on Broad Street. That allows city managers to begin evaluating the cost to renovate the building to fit the city's needs.

"The whole intent is to provide city services, to do business at a very high level at the lowest cost," Assistant Kingsport City Manager Ryan McReynolds said. "So the reason the board would move forward with this is this is a lower cost option."

Current city facilities need more than $8 million in renovations if city employees do not change locations. About $1 million of the total cost would be to add features to bring the old buildings into compliance with the American Disabilities Act. Additionally, courtrooms in city hall need to be moved to the Kingsport Justice Center to tighten security and give court staff more space.

"It would save us probably around $70-80,000 a year if we were in one building," Sullivan County Circuit Judge John McLellan said. "Plus for all these years there's been confusion - parties and witnesses - of whether they should be in the justice center or in this building."

McLellan also said the structure of the city hall building doesn't allow law enforcement to create a secure perimeter around courtrooms. McReynolds also estimates that the cost of moving county courtrooms could range from $5 million to $7.9 million.

On the other hand, buying the Regions building, rather than remaining in current facilities, could lower the costs for the city. The building, and a nearby Regions-owned parking lot, come with a price tag of $2.82 million dollars. McReynolds has also accounted for an estimated $3 million in renovations the building would need. Once city employees move into the new building, the city would be able to sell it's old facilities, bringing the net cost back down to about $3.4 million. McReynolds said the city already had several parties interested in buying the old buildings and said he is confident the city will be able to sell them.

Mayor John Clark voted in favor of the letter of interest. He said the city could improve access for citizens by putting multiple departments in one building.

"So you really don't have to go from building to building like you have to do now," Clark said. "There's a lot of walking, a lot of questions, so from a citizens perspective they can conduct their city's business all in one location."

Clark thinks the city will have final estimates on the Regions building price tag in the first quarter on 2018. If plans move forward, he estimated city hall might be in its new location by 2019.

A manager at Regions Bank said he received several questions from customers about whether the bank was closing or leaving town. He said the bank will still be in Kingsport, but possibly at a different location.

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