City Council reviews sites for constructing new city hall

City Council reviews sites for constructing new city hall by David Lias People interested in the revitalization of Vermillion's downtown area no doubt received a boost of confidence Monday when the Vermillion City Council began discussing where to eventually construct a new city hall.

The council examined three possible sites and four possible building options.

Aldermen found during their discussions Monday that they shared both some common thoughts about the new structure, and some differences about where it should be located and the type of design that should be utilized.

One area that appears to be popular with nearly every alderman is the northeast corner of Main and High Streets, which would place the new building directly across the street from the Clay County Courthouse.

After months of review by city staff and aldermen, the list of possible sites has been narrowed to: the corner of Crawford and Clark, the present site of the existing city hall, and the northeast corner of Main and High Streets.

The least expensive option for new construction is estimated to be $2.1 million for a new city hall at Crawford and Clark. City Manager James Patrick noted that this cost estimate doesn't include land or property acquisition.

The new construction is lower at this site because both a new fire station satellite building and the new city hall could be constructed at the same time.

Patrick noted that added efficiencies would be gained by constructing both of those new facilities at the same time.

It is estimated that constructing a new new building at the site of the existing city hall would cost nearly $2.7 million, excluding land and property acquisition.

Patrick noted that a new structure at the existing city hall site would need to be a two-story building unless the city council chooses to vacate National Street from Center to Elm Street and purchase the properties on the north side of National Street.

This option also requires that land on Crawford Street be purchased immediately and construction of the fire station satellite would need begin either before or at the same time of construction of the new city hall.

Patrick noted this means there would be additional infrastructure costs on Crawford, additional land acquisition, and additional cost for parking at the fire station annex.

In this proposal, the current city hall building would be torn down.

"The cost difference for a two-story building has to do a lot with the steel girders and the other things that need to go in there, so the cost of the square footage does increase," Patrick said. "Also, instead of sitting on a slab, you're looking at sitting the building almost on top of a basement, and the square footage has to be increased by about 2,000 square feet, because you now have about 200 square feet on each floor that's being dedicated to the elevator and another 200 square feet on each floor for at least two stairways."

A two-story building also isn't quite as functional as a one-story building, Patrick said.

"You have a bit more wasted space," he said. "On an average, the architect felt there was going to be about a 2,000 square foot difference in going with two stories."

The city has studied the costs of constructing both a new two-story and a new one-story structure at the corner of Main and High.

A two-story building at that location would have an immediate cost of $2.3 million, and a final cost, after relocation of the fire station annex, of $2.6 million. Those costs don't include land and property acquisition.

A one-story building at that location would have an immediate cost of $1.8 million, and a final cost, after relocation of the fire station annex, of $2.1 million. Those costs don't include land and property acquisition.

"The difference in building costs is the cost of a two-story building versus a one-story building," Patrick said. He noted that a concern with a two-story structure would be a lack of parking spaces.

The one-story option at that location, Patrick said, would require the purchase of three additional homes on Prospect Street north of CorTrust Bank. Those property acquisition costs weren't included in the cost estimates reviewed by aldermen.

Patrick noted that acquiring additional property would allow the construction of a one-story building at the site. He added, however, that a one-story city hall in that location may appear out of place.

"With the courthouse nearby, which is built up on a pedestal, and the historic two-story buildings downtown, it may be best to stay with a two story building," he said.

Mayor Roger Kozak noted that the cost savings of a one-story building may be eliminated when compared to a two-story option, because a one-story structure would require more property.

"As you depart from a two-story, that cost is going to go up, because its more property � we're spreading out, and we could end up spending as much on property as we do on the building itself," he said.

A major reason for Monday's discussion was to give guidance to Patrick. He needs to know which site or sites the council prefers so the next step of property appraisal can occur.

Patrick told the aldermen that he likely would seek

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appraisals for both a one-story and two-story city hall at the corner of High and Main.

The new city hall building would also, through a financial agreement with the city, house administrative offices of the Vermillion School District.

Alderman Dan Christopherson voiced support for attempting to remodel the present city hall building rather than pursuing new construction.

"I think we could save the whole front facade � even though it might not be the most beautiful historic structure, it is historic just because it's been there for many, many years," Christopherson said of the present city hall. "I think there are ways, with the right kinds of innovative engineering, that we could utilize a lot of this existing space without having to spend as much money as some engineers have said."

Engineers and architects have studied the design and condition of the present city hall, and estimated that remodeling the building would cost nearly $2 million.

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