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Contractor: ‘An Ungodly schedule’ - El Paso Inc.: Local News

Contractor: ‘An Ungodly schedule’

But 2nd floor should be finished this week

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Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 6:00 pm

When City Hall takes over the El Paso Times Building next month, the biggest office will be the mayor's - until you count the executive bathroom with the gold-colored lavatory and shower in City Manager Joyce Wilson's office.

But, Wilson didn't exactly plan it that way.

It all goes back to 1991 when the Gannett-owned Times and Scripps Howard's El Paso Herald-Post moved into their new 80,000 square-foot home.

The editor of the Post, the city's afternoon newspaper, got the corner office with the gold sink that Scripps Howard wanted him to have.

The Herald-Post went out of business in 1997, leaving the Times to weather the declining days of the newspaper business in a building with more space than people to fill it.

El Paso's 10-story mirrored City Hall, finished 34 years ago, is to be demolished in three months to make way for a $50 million, Triple A baseball stadium.

That will mean moving 600 employees out with their telephones, chairs, desks, computers, records and everything they do.

City government was looking for one or more buildings to buy last year when the owners of the Times offered the newspaper building at 300 N. Campbell for sale.

Months before they had moved the Times newsroom downstairs, hoping to lease much of the second floor.

The city bought the building for $9.4 million on Dec. 15 as the new headquarters for city government, which will also be occupying the 801-811 Texas Ave. building and the Luther Building.

In planning the offices of the mayor, City Council, city manager, other executives and staff now being hurriedly built out on the second floor, someone had to get the office with the gold sink.

It went to Wilson, who plans to stay on as the city's chief executive officer until her contract ends in 2014. Then, presumably, it will go to the second city manager in El Paso's history.

Wilson's deputy city managers and staff along with the public information officers will move into offices and cubicles in the once bustling newsroom of the Herald Post.

Mayor John Cook, whose second and final term ends in June, will get the expanded 576-square foot office in the northwest corner of the building that looks out on Downtown. It once belonged to Times sports and feature editors.

It's a little bigger than Wilson's office, but with the bathroom amenity, they're about the same size.

City representatives' offices will line the north and west walls on both sides of the mayor's office.

The second floor of the new main City Hall will house the offices and departments that run the city administratively, including legal, auditing and the Office of Management and Budget - about 215 people in all.

Eddie Linss, the vice president and area manager of El Paso's Basic IDIQ, a construction contractor, said crews have been working double shifts and more since Dec. 17 to finish the tear up and build out the second floor by Tuesday's deadline.

"It's been an ungodly schedule," Linss said of the remodeling project's pace and scale.

Most of the walls are up and much of the carpeting is down on what will be a tightly packed floor. But with only five days left to finish there was a lot of work left to do.

"From the last time I came up here, it looks completely different now," said the Times photo editor, Ruben Ramirez, who joined a tour of the floor last week.

All the while, the editors and staff of the El Paso Times have been putting out the newspaper on the first floor.

They'll continue doing that as the newsroom and other operations are being dismantled and moved to the paper's new home in the Trans Telco Building in the Union Plaza District.

"Having them there made the whole project quite tricky," Linss said. "We've had to work through Christmas and New Year's pretty much since Dec. 17 to finish."

Almost everything belonging to the Times must be out by Feb. 15 when Basic IDIQ comes back to start on the first floor.

This week, the company will shift its attention to the setting up the city's One Stop Shop for customer services, including construction permits and inspections, at 811 Texas.

City Council has approved a $4 million job order contract for the Times and 811 Texas remodeling projects and other work, as necessary.

"The One Stop Shop will move there permanently and they will be the last people out of City Hall in the last two weeks in March because we don't want to move those people twice," said John Neal, whom the city has hired to oversee the move.

A man of many talents, he has served the city in a variety of capacities over the years.

Asked what his current title is, Neal said he doesn't know.

"I have dubbed myself special projects director," he said.

Tearing out and rebuilding the first floor of the Times building will take about a month, he said.

It will house the city's human resource, municipal clerk, financial services and purchasing departments and the City Council chambers.

In coming weeks, other departments will move to temporary quarters:

-- About 80 employees from the Parks and Recreation Department and Community Development will head to the Pat O'Rourke Recreation Center in the former YMCA on Montana Avenue.

-- The 100 employees in Information Technology will set up at El Paso International Airport.

-- The engineering and community development departments will take 154 employees to the Tillman Building.

Neil said everyone who has been moved to the O'Rourke Recreation Center and Tillman will eventually go into permanent quarters at 801 Texas.

The Information Technology employees will move to permanent offices in the Luther Building across Mills Street from the Times Building.

So far, Neal said, things are going according to plan.

"It's an ambitious undertaking that takes a great deal of organization and planning, but everything is going well," he said.

As for the Times building, he said, "We'll be moved in and settled by March 31."

Asked how people are taking the many moves, Neal said, "The Times people, to a person, do not want to give up the building.

"At City Hall, the people who have worked in that building for a long time, I think they're eager for change."


Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.

 

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