Where to put city hall?
In addition to approving four plans for further study of how to utilize city buildings, the Washington City Council also asked for an additional study about putting the police and fire departments into the existing city hall and building a new city hall just to the south.
During discussion of a engineering study of the city’s municipal building and the former library that had been approved last year, four plans for the use of the buildings were discussed. City administrator Brent Hinson said that, as far as city planning was concerned, a project was to move ahead in the year 2016.
“We are bursting at the seams,” Hinson said. “What we are looking at now are four options the architects have identified.”
He asked the council if the options were acceptable to continue investigating. Most options included moving city hall to the former library and leaving the police and fire departments in the current municipal building. The existing municipal building houses the police department, fire department, and city offices in a 9,000 square foot building. The lower level of the library is used for council chambers and the upper level is leased to the Washington County Public Health Department.
Council member Bob Shelmyer first recommended the idea of building a new city hall to the south of the existing municipal building. He said building new may cost less than renovating the former library building. The studies showed the possibility of expanding the second level of the former library.
Shelmyer also said constituents he had spoken with about the plans had indicated they wanted to see the sewer system addressed before considering additional projects.
Council member Bob Shepherd said that he wanted to see the police and fire departments in the same building, because they are both emergency responders. He also said that he wanted to see the council use the former library.
Council member Fred Stark asked if building a new city hall would require a bond issue. Mayor Sandra Johnson said it would.
Hinson said that the timing of the bonds is a reason the city is looking at the project now. He said that a bond is coming due in 2018 that makes up $2.50 on the city’s property tax levy. He believes the council could do the project, some streetscaping and potentially reduce the levy if that money were used.
“We won’t be in a situation where we have to increase taxes, we would go to voters and ask for support for the project without increasing the tax rate,” he said.