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Proposed City Hall Plans Hit Snags

MONMOUTH -- City Council has been trying to narrow down its options in how -- or if -- to pursue a new City Hall. Last week, it might have come up with a few more.

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MONMOUTH -- City Council has been trying to narrow down its options in how -- or if -- to pursue a new City Hall. Last week, it might have come up with a few more.

Officials directed department heads during their work session on Sept. 1 to predict staffing levels in the short and long term as a means of gauging new building space needs.

They also asked for a cost analysis of such changes, and whether the existing 92-year-old building could be remodeled instead of discarded.

In August, Monmouth's Economic Development Commission recommended that the most feasible way to erect a new City Hall was to build one where Volunteer Hall currently stands. The current City Hall property could then be marketed toward developers.

Funding, about $2 million, would come from a bond structured to take effect in 2014.

Most councilors seemed lukewarm during last week's meeting to the idea because of the prospect of passing a bond in the current economic climate, and that the EDC recommendation for building size was based on a 2004 analysis that might be outdated.

Councilors also said the removal of greenspace to the west of City Hall to accommodate the EDC concept would be a major point of contention for some in the community.

"It's not really used for anything," Mayor John Oberst countered. "As for us making a fully functional streetscape, downtown planners would roll their eyes at it."

The square-footage increase of a new city hall, 9,000 square feet with the current building and Volunteer Hall to 14,000 square feet, prompted discussion of staffing needs.

"If we're going to need to re-evaluate the numbers for staff in the future, that's going to change everything," Councilor Darin Silbernagel warned.

City Manager Scott McClure stated that space issues with the Monmouth Police Department facility might actually be more pressing than City Hall.

Councilor Ben Meyer noted there have been improvements since then, and a 2007 study showed that the building, while deficient in some areas, was structurally sound. He also said he believed that past city managers have overstated the building's problems.

"I want to throw out all the past information," Meyer said. "I feel a whole new analysis needs to be looked at."

Councilor Chris Larsen said that while he has stated previously that "City Hall wasn't worth a nickel to update," a fresh look might now be reasonable.

But he also warned against paying consultants for more conceptual work on City Hall, as two such projects were completed in 1999 and 2004.

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