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Posted on Fri. Jul. 12, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Civil-rights agency will move to Parks Department headquarters

Reversal of decision to lease space will save $52,000 per year, city says

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The city has reversed a plan to move its civil-rights agency into a downtown office building that would have cost taxpayers $52,000 per year to rent.

Instead, the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission will move from its longtime home in the Rousseau Centre – formerly known as the City-County Building – into vacant space in the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department headquarters on State Boulevard around Oct. 1.

“We believe this is a positive solution to the space challenge that we were faced with,” said John Perlich, spokesman for Mayor Tom Henry. Although the Parks Department normally charges not-for-profit agencies $3 per square foot to rent excess space in its facility, one city department will not charge another for space, he added.

And that will save taxpayers money. As The News-Sentinel reported in June, the proposed lease on 4,739 square feet in the Metro Building at 202 W. Berry St. would have cost $52,000 per year – or a total of nearly $782,000 if extended the full 15 years – an offer building owner Bill Bean called “extremely competitive.”

The Human Relations Commission will occupy about 6,000 square feet on the bottom floor of the parks building, Parks Director Al Moll said. “It's a good way to use up space,” Moll said, noting that the city will make some improvements to the space – including security features – before the agency moves in.

Officials have said the Commission's move from the Rousseau Centre is necessary because the sixth-floor space it now occupies will be needed when the 911 emergency call center moves to that floor from the basement.

Some, however, had questioned the need for the city to pay rent when it and Allen County own buildings with excess capacity. City Councilman Tom Smith, in fact, said space appears to be available in Citizens Square, which the city purchased and renovated at a cost of about $14 million just a few years ago as the hub of major city and county offices.

“I'm glad we're saving money, but I'm sorry (Metro) is moving out of downtown,” said Smith, R-1st. “The trend had been to move offices downtown, such as police and fire (now at the Rousseau Centre). This is going in the wrong direction, and sends the wrong message.”

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