New city hall may be in Vermillion’s future

New city hall may be in Vermillion's future by David Lias A facility study of Vermillion City Hall shows the building to be unsafe, according to Robin J. Miller of the Sioux Falls architectural firm of Miller Sellers Heroux.

In a report to the Vermillion City Council Monday, Miller indicated that building a new city hall may be more cost effective than trying to remodel the current structure to meet building, fire and handicapped-accessibility codes.

It also appears that other entities in the city, such as the Vermillion School District, the Chamber of Commerce and the Vermillion Development Company, may be interested in helping out with remodeling or new construction of the city hall in exchange for office and meeting space.

At earlier presentations, Miller has pointed out "serious inadequacies" of the existing structure. In his opinion, the building is unsafe to use in its current form because:

* There is inadequate access and egress. Two exits are required from each side of the upstairs and the basement.

* There is inadequate separation of assembly spaces and parking.

* The lofted offices (over parking) are constructed of combustible materials with a combustible exit stair.

* As a public entity, the city of Vermillion was required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to comply with its accessibility standards no later than July 26, 1994. This has not been accomplished.

Miller provided aldermen with several different options to consider when deciding how to adapt city hall to eliminate these problems.

The costs of the various options range from $719,000 for improvements that won't solve long-term problems inherit within the building, to $1.7 million which is the estimated cost for not only a more complete remodeling, but an expansion of the building from its present 12,000 square feet to over 14,000 square feet.

Since the architectural firm was asked to conduct a study, Miller said, it also decided to include costs of a new building for comparison purposes.

A new, one-story city hall with an area of 14,500 square feet carries an estimated price tag of $1.4 million, approximately $300,000 less than the cost of the most aggressive remodeling plans offered.

Miller said one of the primary questions his firm has received from Vermillion citizens involves possible cost savings by making building multi-purpose.

"One of the primary questions has been if you were to share city hall with another space, the school district for instance, what kind of efficiencies might you gain by putting more than one structure under one roof?" Miller said.

Constructing a multi-use facility would bring savings in the utilization of land and site cost, and reduced costs with shared parking.

Constructing one larger building would have less exterior exposure than two separate stand-alone buildings, meaning a savings in utilities, Miller added.

"It's cheaper to build one 20,000 square foot building than to build two 12,000 square foot buildings," Miller said. "The cost per square foot is down on a larger building."

There would be savings in installation of utilities, and there would be greater efficiencies with mechanical and electrical equipment, and shared use of rest rooms, conference rooms and public meeting rooms.

"You'd have to work this out, but there's even the possibility of shared staffing," Miller said, "and shared equipment within the offices, which would mean reduced maintenance."

Mayor Roger Kozak said the Vermillion School District has indicated interest in participating in the planning of city hall renovation or new construction. "In addition to the school, we've had the Vermillion Development Company, the Chamber of Commerce that would be interested in also joining in the facilities. So I think there's room to explore the new facility concept in a broader perspective than just city government and I think there are some economies of scale that can be realized."

The city council authorized Kozak and City Manager Jeff Pederson to pursue conversations with entities that may be interested in being involved in a new or renovated building.

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