AUGUSTA — Mayor David Rollins recently had 10 or 15 minutes of unplanned quiet time to himself at City Hall.

He was stuck in the elevator between the first and second floors of Augusta City Center.

“I enjoyed a good 10-minute solitary confinement,” Rollins said of the experience. “It was a good Zen moment.”

Rollins, who was thus a bit late that day to his regular Monday meeting with City Manager William Bridgeo, was alone at the time, but he was not alone in getting stuck in the elevator that serves the city’s center of local government.

Development Director Matt Nazar said similar incidents have happened about a dozen times over the last nine months to other people, including once when a janitor moving cleaning equipment between floors was trapped in the elevator at night for 30 or 40 minutes and, because no one else was around, had to use his phone to call for the Fire Department to come open the doors and get him out.

So city councilors recently voted unanimously to spend up to $100,000 to get the elevator, which was installed when the building was built 30 years ago, back running reliably again.

Bridgeo said the cost is that high because the elevator is so old replacement parts no longer are available for its mechanical workings. So just about everything other than the cab passengers ride in, and the hydraulic ram that moves the elevator up and down, need to be replaced with modern gear.

That includes $15,000 to $25,000 of work to upgrade electrical equipment and fire detection equipment, and put in a heat pump to provide climate control to keep a server that will be installed to run the elevator’s new computerized controls cool, something that wasn’t necessary previously because the elevator’s current mechanical equipment doesn’t need a server, or air conditioning, to function reliably.

At least until recently.

In recent months, Bridgeo said, the elevator occasionally has stopped moving between floors, leaving passengers stuck inside. When that happens during the day and people are around to help, it only takes about 10 minutes for a city employee to reset the elevator and get it moving again.

“It’s unreliable. We just don’t know when it won’t work,” Bridgeo said. “Though when it fails, it’s just a matter of resetting it, which takes about 10 minutes.”

The elevator remains in service for now. Bridgeo said if the elevator fails again, it can get going fairly quickly.

Repairs probably will take about two months, during which time the elevator will be out of service, he said.

However, all three floors of the building still will be accessible without the elevator. That’s because Augusta City Center has ground-level entrances on all three of its floors, including from the parking lot off Cony Street to the first floor, which includes the city code enforcement office; and off Arsenal Street, which provides access to the second floor, where residents register their vehicles and visit the city clerk’s office.

“People needing access to the second floor while the repair is being made (who can’t use stairs) need to come to the Arsenal Street entrance, as we do have a no-barrier entrance there,” Rollins said.

Bridgeo said the elevator is still necessary, though, as often people who are disabled or who can’t climb stairs enter on the lower level and need a way to get to the upper level to conduct business once they enter the building.

“This sort of repair goes along with making sure this building is accessible to anybody, including people with disabilities of any type. That’s why this repair is so important,” said Marci Alexander, an at-large councilor.

Nazar said the repairs are expected to cost $70,000 to $100,000, so authorizing up to $100,000 to be spent for the emergency repair should cover the cost.

The money will come from the city’s unrestricted fund balance, which Bridgeo said is kept for such emergency purposes.

The work will be performed by the company that already has a contract to service the elevator and will not go out to bid. Nazar said going out to bid probably would add about two months to the project.

Bridgeo expects work to start on the elevator soon, perhaps as soon as next week.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj