City Hall work to start soon

Published 8:40 pm Monday, December 3, 2012

Crews perform utility work on West Washington Street Friday in preparation for construction of a new city hall building. (Tracy Agnew/Suffolk News-Herald)

Utility work on West Washington Street set to continue through Dec. 14 is the first visible sign of progress on the project to build a new municipal center.

But work has been going on behind the scenes at a rapid clip, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said Friday.

“We met most of this week with the design-build team,” Roberts said. “We want to finalize as many details of the building concept as possible to establish a floor plan and final building footprint. That allows them to go ahead and get construction documents prepared.”

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Actual construction could begin around the first of the year, when a ground-breaking ceremony will be set. The city hopes to take possession of the new 911 call center in the early part of 2014, and would occupy the main building in the latter months of that year.

That would allow the current building to be abandoned and demolished to make way for a parking lot for the new municipal center.

On Wednesday, City Council will be asked to advance $11.9 million — originally scheduled for next fiscal year — to the project so the city can negotiate for the E-911 radio system and new towers, Roberts said.

“That was adopted in the budget to be funded July 1, but we’re ready to negotiate a contract right now,” he said. “We’re anxious to keep the 911 component on an accelerated schedule.”

During last week’s meetings, various departments discussed their floor plans. Roberts said a significant amount of time has been spent on the “one-stop shop” concept that would allow residents relocating to the city or new businesses to get everything they need in one place.

“We really have spent a lot of time on the layout of that to make sure it works for 50 years,” Roberts said. “There’s so many different agencies that apply different regulations. If you want to build a house, you might have to park your car four different times at four different buildings all over the city. We’re really trying to minimize the footsteps.”

Roberts said the concept could evolve to the point where it calls for at least one employee from several departments all to be located in one office near the front counter.

The city also is expected to approach the Historic Landmarks Commission in December or January to gain its approval for the building’s exterior look.

The utility work on West Washington Street, which will result in road closures during business hours for the next two weeks, involves realignment and connections of water and sewer lines, Roberts said.

Though the road will once again be open to traffic after that, it won’t be the end of construction on West Washington Street. The project calls for on-street parking, wider sidewalks, new streetscaping and other improvements along the corridor.