City officials in Amarillo are once again pushing to build a new city hall downtown, despite citizen pushback on two past attempts to complete such a project.
Last week, the Amarillo City Council voted 3-1 to approve a funding plan for a new downtown city hall that would be funded by the issuance of $23.9 million in revenue and tax notes, set to be paid off by local taxpayers. Mayor Ginger Nelson and Councilmembers Freda Powell and Eddy Sauer voted for the item, while Councilmember Cole Stanley cast the lone vote against the item.
Under the plan approved by officials, the new city hall will be located within the currently abandoned warehouse that was once home to the Amarillo Hardware Company.
The proposal for a new city hall has been resurrected by city officials after previously being tabled by city officials following a lawsuit and successful citizen petition led by businessman Craig Gualtiere earlier this year that would have required officials to place a proposed $35 million debt issuance for the project on the ballot. Council members had previously voted to bypass voters and issue the debt through certificates of obligation in a 4-1 vote that once again saw Stanley as the sole voice against the item.
Gualtiere’s petition and lawsuit came following the defeat of a proposed $275 million bond election in November 2020 that would have funded a number of downtown projects as part of a $319 million spending package. The new city hall was included in that spending package, but city officials have since claimed that the project could still be funded by debt issued without voter approval because it wasn’t part of the bond election side of the item despite never issuing an authoritative list of items that would have been funded by the bond in 2020.
Officials say while the project will retain its $35 million price tag, efforts will be made to secure the remainder of the project’s funding through funds available as part of the American Rescue Plan. Despite this, officials say citizens owning a $100,000 property can still expect a yearly tax increase of about $20 to fund this project, in addition to other tax increases passed as part of annual budgets approved by the city council.