A municipal renovation complex project hit a $1 million snag when contractors discovered asbestos in what will be the city’s development center.
City Clerk Brenda Hall told the Norman City Council Tuesday that completion of the new development center will be held up by four to six months while the former central library undergoes $1 million in asbestos remediation.
While the plan was to open the center in February 2022, staff expects it will now be September of next year, Hall said. The center will house all departments related to development, like planning and zoning. The vacated building will then be converted to a new municipal court.
The library was constructed in 1967, and while it passed initial negative tests for the substance, a second ceiling hidden from view contained asbestos, Hall said.
“The initial footprint was only 21,000 square feet and now it’s 50,000 square feet,” Hall said. “It was added onto in the 80s all the way around in different places. Once we got to demoing that, we found some material that needed to be tested.”
The project was shut down after the asbestos was discovered in September. Following tests for air quality and meetings with the Oklahoma Department of Labor to commence cleanup, Hall said the contractor was released to begin cleanup Oct. 4.
“Unfortunately it comes at a very expensive cost … close to $1 million to get it abated,” Hall said. “We are currently looking at moving around capital projects in order to fund it.”
Hall said staff is continuing to search for asbestos remediation grants.
Facilities to open
The public transit and park maintenance facility will bring three departments together on one campus at North Base near N. Flood Avenue and Da Vinci Street by the end of 2021.
The 20,000-square-foot facility will house transit buses and large fire apparatus while serving as a maintenance hub for both departments; an additional 16,000-square-foot building will house parks and recreation equipment maintenance. The current parks facility will be demolished to make room for improvements at Reeves Park.
Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said the project will solve “a lot of problems,” especially for the city’s bus fleet, which has been temporarily housed on the University of Oklahoma campus since the city took over the university’s fleet in July 2019. Voters approved an eighth-cent tax to help fund the public transit system in November 2019.
The $10 million complex will be partially funded with a $5.1 million federal transit grant. Revenue from the Public Safety Sales Tax, Norman Forward Sales Tax, capital budget funds and other grants will pay for the remaining cost.
O’Leary said he expects the grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony will be in November or December 2021.
A second facility to protect the environment is also scheduled to open in December 2021, Environmental and Sustainability Director Michele Loudenback said.
The $1.4 million household hazardous waste center will be a one-stop drop for residents who want to dispose of chemicals and other items that are not candidates for regular trash or recycle pickup.
The center will be open year-round on weekdays, with plans to open two Saturdays each month, Loudenback said.
Included in the project is a container maintenance facility that will rehabilitate dumpsters used for solid waste to extend their useful life cycle. Loudenback said it’s a cost-saving measure for the sanitation division.
Presentation documents show the waste facility will feature an enclosed drive-in recycle hub where staff can assess items that can and cannot be accepted.
“Our plan is to do 30-minute appointment slots so a resident can call in and come in on a certain day, and that gives us time to not only remove the materials from their vehicle, but that allows the employee to process and manage it during that time,” Loudenback said.
It also includes measures to contain toxic spills, storage of flammable chemicals for safety of staff and the public and eventually, a Geiger counter to scan for radioactive items. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality handles radioactive contaminated materials, staff said.
Future plans to expand services could mean the center will be open to county residents and expand the types of waste it can collect, Loudenback said.
An e-waste recycling event to dispose of items like computers, television and other electronic devices is planned from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 23. A paint can collection event is planned for Nov. 13.