Joint city/school building to be studied

Joint city/school building to be studied by M. Jill Karolevitz The possibility of a joint city hall/school administration building will be studied after action taken by the Vermillion City Council during its regular meeting Monday night, Aug. 6.

The council approved a motion to go ahead with a survey to be conducted by Miller Sellers Heroux Architects, Inc., of Sioux Falls.

Following discussions with Vermillion School Superintendent Robert Mayer, City Manager Jeff Pederson noted that the school district is "interested in a long-term joint occupancy as a tenant, leasing space from the city," he said. "They will pay rent, but they are not willing to share the building costs."

"Our location is good, but our space has been reduced while the cost has gone up," Mayer said on Tuesday. "If we can hook up with the city on a joint facility at a nearby location that is agreeable, it would be beneficial to both the city and school district. But we would not be willing to borrow money to assist with construction costs."

The Miller Sellers Heroux survey will help the city determine the scope of the project � whether to add on to the current city hall or rebuild on the same site or elsewhere, according to Mayor Roger Kozak.

"This survey will increase our information base, getting into more site-specific issues," Pederson added.

The survey's � $7,750 � will come out of funds they city has set aside in its budget from the second penny sales tax for city hall planning.

Council member Kevin Annis remarked that he would be in favor of saving the old building for another use if city offices were to move.

"We're always talking about ripping down this building," he said. "It may not work for us, but could someone else use it? Do we have to rip it down?"

Moving the facility sparked comments from council member Gary Wright.

"From meetings we've had, I've heard from a good cross section of the community that say they want it (a city hall facility) in the downtown area," he said.

"A joint building eliminates the possibility of simple renovation of this building," Pederson said. "We would require more space and that puts us into the expansion mode. But if we were to start new construction off site, we would need to acquire more property."

"If expansion is not possible on this site, we have to consider the amount of land needed," Kozak said. "That has to be determined first, so we're not anywhere near taking the step of deciding where."

"The city council has not eliminated any options to date, so we are going to look at what opportunities exist," Pederson said, regarding renovation and expansion on the current site, demolishing the old city hall and rebuilding there, or rebuilding a new facility elsewhere. "But people need to know that the decision has not been made to go off site or away from the downtown area."

He added that a preliminary study by Miller Sellers Heroux noted the cost of remodeling would be about the same as building new � $1.4 million.

According to the architect's correspondence with the city, steps of the Miller Sellers Heroux survey include:

? Mayor Kozak conducts informal discussions with "optional" user groups such as the chamber, community development, county, etc. The scope of this project will change if they become a physical part of the solution. However you and they decide, their continued support will be required. The city should determine the need for enclosed or covered parking. If required, please quantify.

? Miller Sellers Heroux will visit the school district's offices to obtain firsthand experience on their existing work flow and physical space. We will also develop a written "program" or needs assessment for your approval.

? The existing city hall program will be added to the new school district program, with physical spaces needs identified. We will then suggest space savings for final review and approval by both entities. We will present this in Vermillion. Suggested savings may include: site utilization and land costs; shared parking; reduced exterior skim to interior space ratio; sewer pipes, power lines, etc.; rest rooms; conference rooms; public spaces; shared staff; shared equipment; reduced maintenance staff and costs; construction cost efficiencies; "one stop shopping" advantage to citizens.

? We will continue to suggest financing options such as the school district leasing from the city, thus freeing funds for other uses.

? We intend to submit a schematic (sketch plan/early design) plan of a stand alone new facility and site plan for a new lot, with pricing information.

? Review with city hall and school district personnel.

? Presentation to council for review and approval of report with the intent of selecting one direction.

The final phase of the survey is expected to be completed by Oct. 1, according to Miller Sellers Heroux.

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