The city of Columbia has awarded a contract on the first phase of safety enhancements that will encompass the top of the Fifth and Walnut parking garage.
The safety enhancements were proposed after the nine-story garage had been the site of several suicides over the 10 years since its construction, including one earlier this fall. City Council approved moving ahead with the safety enhancements a year ago.
The first phase of enhancements include an 8-foot-high, inward-curving fence to go around the perimeter of the top floor. The bid was accepted for $488,000 from Central Fence. The city set aside $600,000 in funds for this project, said Sydney Olsen, city public information officer.
The city has already prepaid half of the costs of the materials to ensure that the contractor can begin the project right away, she said.
However, it may take eight weeks, if not longer, from when the materials are ordered for them to arrive, so construction will not start yet for some time, she added.
Once on hand, the fencing will be able to be installed within three weeks, ensuring a quick turnaround, she said.
Olsen said the city now is working with its consultant on the second phase of enhancements: installing steel panels to cover the open spaces on the remaining upper level floors.
The Fifth and Walnut garage features signage that implores residents to seek help and cameras to help monitor the area. The ninth floor has a railing around the perimeter sitting behind the concrete wall that encompasses the top of the parking garage, but neither of those barriers exceeds 6 feet in height.