City hall plan moves ahead
After over a month of research and an hour of discussion Tuesday evening, the Washington City Council voted to proceed with a plan that would use the former Washington Public Library to expand city offices
During a special meeting, the council decided to tentatively pursue a plan that would move city hall into the former library building, while the existing municipal building would be renovated to be used by the police and fire departments. The former library is currently being used for council meetings, as well as meetings by other entities. The upstairs area is used by the Washington County Department of Public Health.
Council member Kathryn Salazar, who made the motion to proceed with the option, said she chose the option because she didn’t want a downtown building left vacant.
During discussion, city administrator Brent Hinson and several members of the Washington Fire Department endorsed an option that would leave city hall and the police department in the municipal building and build a new fire station. According to architects’ figures, the project using the former library will cost $3,7 million and the project that would build a new fire station would cost $3,7 million. Four choices were presented to the city council.
Hinson said that the city may hold a bond referendum for the project as early as next year. The project was discussed due to the projected retirement of bonds used for the streetscape and library projects in 2018. The project is not expected to cause increase property taxes.
Council member Bob Shellmyer, who voted against the plan, objected to the requirement of purchasing new land for the project. He said that the city now owns several properties that it hasn’t put on the market to sell yet and asked that the project be delayed until the other properties had been sold.
The land would have to be acquired to build a parking lot. Hinson said he was concerned that Jones & Eden Funeral Home and the Washington Community Y would be angry at increased traffic if the city didn’t also provide additional parking. Council member Bob Shepherd asked what the city did about parking when the building served as the library.
Shellmyer and council member Russ Zieglowsky also raised concerns about the possibility of the city having to use eminent domain to acquire needed land for the project, citing an incident at the airport where this happened.
Concerns were raised regarding the library building not being Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. The problem of parking also came up.
“No matter what route you guys go, I think we are going to end up with a better facility situation than we have today,” Hinson said.
In other business, the council:
• discussed changes to the downtown construction permit process. A first draft of a revised ordinance will be given to the council for consideration at the May 6 meeting;
• discussed possible changes to a sidewalk café ordinace; and
• discussed changes to open burning restrictions.