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Cramped City Staff Watches Civic Center Come Together

INDEPENDENCE -- Independence Community Development Director Mike Danko's office in the city's forthcoming civic center on South Main Street is little more than a concrete and steel shell right now.

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Independence Community Development Director Mike Danko checks out the new civic center under construction.

INDEPENDENCE -- Independence Community Development Director Mike Danko's office in the city's forthcoming civic center on South Main Street is little more than a concrete and steel shell right now.

During a tour last week, Danko seemed almost giddy as he passed through his future digs -- despite the rain water pooling on the floor.

"I'll actually have a window," he said.

He added that city staff will no longer have to fight each other for conference room space.

"We've waited a long time to make this happen," Danko said.

Independence's civic center project continues to take shape, as workers have recently installed prefabricated skin on the exterior. The brick facade will be added this week.

"We're just trying to get the building in the dry right now," said Greg Scott of Skanska, the Portland-based contractor of the project. "The roof is scheduled to start (next week)."

Rain and now-resolved issues with soil stability earlier this year have slightly delayed the project. Danko said the completion date should be January or February of 2011.

"When we get into it isn't the greatest concern," Danko said. "It's a matter of getting it done right."

The 36,600-square-foot complex will house most of the city's employees on the second- and third floors. The bottom floors will remain unfinished until they're needed, Danko said.

"It was cheaper for us to build the space we're going to need 15 years from now than adding something on top of the building later."

The civic center is roughly four times the size of the existing city hall. The layout is as follows:

* There will be a public entrance into the building from Main Street, and another, larger one from the parking area on the east side.

* Planning, development and building personnel will use the third floor of the south wing. Administrative offices and the City Council chambers will sit on the second story.

* Solar arrays will be installed on the roof of the building. A monitor downstairs will display the amount of power generated.

* The north side of the parking lot has space reserved for a future substation for Polk County Fire District No. 1.

Independence Police, meanwhile will occupy the north wing of the building. That portion will include holding cells, two training rooms, a parking garage, and a sally port.

"We'll have an evidence processing area," said Police Chief Vern Wells. "In our (current headquarters) we don't have a place for that except our officers' desks."

The 1.8-acre property has been elevated with fill because it is in the 100-year flood plain. The building now sits two feet above that level.

A retaining wall has also been erected on the east side of the 50-space parking area that separates it from the slack water of the Willamette River.

The city has sold approximately $13.7 million in municipal bonds to pay for the civic center. In March, City Council raised its spending authority from $12 million -- set in 2009 -- to the larger amount.

The bid price for direct construction was $8.1 million, though there have been overruns of about $250,000 due to wet weather and original site conditions -- fill and river sediment were removed, and piles driven 30 feet into the ground to support the building.

Danko said he doesn't expect the total cost of the project -- including installation of telephone systems, furnishing, administration and other expenses -- to exceed $12 million.

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