City Hall plan advances

Published 7:26 pm Thursday, December 16, 2010

A plan for a new City Hall will be included in the capital improvements plan that the Planning Commission will review next week, City Council decided in its Wednesday meeting.

The current City Hall, nearly 50 years old, suffers from a number of structural and mechanical problems. An architectural consultant said Wednesday performing upgrades to the current building would cost more than half the price of an entirely new building.

“It may be more cost-effective to replace this building,” Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said. In addition, a new building could accommodate future growth and bring all city departments under one roof, eliminating costly leases.

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The architectural firm of Waller, Todd and Sadler has proposed a new, two-story, 94,000-square-foot municipal center at the corner of West Washington Street and Henley Place. The building would face West Washington Street, with ample parking and main entrances behind the building.

It could be built while the current 55,000-square-foot building still is functional, said Howard Collins of the architectural firm.

City leaders hope the new building would spur revitalization in the area and provide a “destination,” Collins added.

The new building is anticipated to cost roughly $22.7 million, Collins added. That does not include the cost for upgraded E911 system equipment, which will have to be purchased whether or not a new building is constructed.

The cost to upgrade the current building so that it will last another 25 years would be $12.5 million, Collins said.

Anne Seward, the city’s budget officer, said she will present a detailed outline of how the city could pay for the new building at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

“We believe it is also within our affordability,” Seward told council members Wednesday, adding that the capital improvements plan is currently within the debt capacity. “This project does make good sense financially.”

Councilman Charles Brown said he wanted to ensure the project could be completed without a property tax hike. “I want to make sure we’re not going to raise taxes to accomplish this,” he said.

If the Planning Commission approves the capital improvements plan, City Council will have a chance to review it at its Jan. 19 meeting. Collins said his firm hopes to begin design plans in January. “This is a very aggressive schedule,” he said.