Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias The Vermillion City Council made the right decision.

It decided Tuesday to purchase the Community First National Bank building for $1.1 million and spend up to $1.1 million more to remodel it to become the community's new city hall.

We favor this action for several reasons.

The bank building is only about 20 years old.

Unlike our present city hall, it has all the contemporary trappings of a modern structure.

Unlike our present city hall, it is handicapped-accessible. The structure has a basement, a main floor and a second floor, all of which can be accessed by an elevator.

Unlike our present city hall, the bank building wasn't initially wired for electricity and phone service 40 or 50 years ago or more.

Unlike our present city hall, its heating and cooling systems and plumbing aren't several decades old.

Unlike our present city hall, it easily meets all safety and fire codes.

Unlike our present city hall, the Community First National Bank building is one of the jewels of Vermillion's downtown business sector.

It is, fittingly, located on the corner of Church and Main, where Vermillion's first city hall once stood.

There are several factors that make us feel comfortable about the city council's decision Tuesday.

Aldermen took their time before making this decision.

Approximately two years ago, the Phase I report of the city's comprehensive plan, completed with the assistance of over 40 citizens listed as a first priority to "study the need to renovate or replace city hall to correct structural, space and public accommodation deficiencies and to include joint use options with other entities."

In that time, the city council has had architects and engineers examine the present city hall building to get an idea of its potential.

We understand how some people, especially long-time Vermillion residents, would favor renovating the present city hall building to keep city offices there.

We've heard people talk about how the present city hall, despite its age, space restrictions, ADA violations, etc., is "a perfectly good building."

People who make those comments are correct � to a point.

Our present city hall is "perfectly good" to those who want to maintain the status quo.

Ironically, if you ask some people about Vermillion's shortcomings in recent years, you're likely to hear that community leaders have, for too long, seemed to strive just to maintain the status quo. Nothing more.

That attitude appears to be fading, thank goodness. There are vivid signs all around us that serve as reminders that this community has set its sights on the future.

Those reminders include big things, such as the recent addition to Vermillion High School, the completion of the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge, and the welcomed improvements to city streets and area state and county highways.

They include small signs of new life in the community, such as Vermillion Beautiful's efforts to plant colorful flowers in the city, and this week's Coyote Bash that introduced USD freshmen to downtown businesses.

It was a few short years ago that we battled, editorially, against the city's plans to construct a new fire hall.

We opposed those plans, in part, because we felt the city didn't explore building options, and it had to struggle to scrape together the funds to meet its ambitious building budget.

Those factors also lead to lukewarm public support for the idea.

We believe the city has taken the necessary steps to satisfy most critics of its plans to buy the bank building.

It has explored options. It has looked at the feasibility of remodeling the present city hall. It has studied the costs of building new one- or two-story structures.

It has studied the costs of purchasing the needed real estate, should it decide to construct a new building.

Ultimately, the city has decided to purchase a modern building with a great location. And it has budgeted funds for costs associated with transforming the structure from a financial institution to a center of government.

And, unlike the situation the community found itself in with the fire hall issue, it was stressed Tuesday by Mayor Roger Kozak that the resolution to purchase the bank building is a legislative act.

That means if you don't agree with the city council's action, you can circulate petitions and refer the action to a public vote.

For all of these reasons, we think the Vermillion City Council made the right decision Tuesday.

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