City Hall Election Is Tuesday

City Hall Election Is Tuesday The bank

* Built in 1980; Main Street location; basement, main and second floor comply with ADA; purchase price $1.1 million; up to $863,000 allocated for remodeling. by David Lias City officials have been hitting the streets of Vermillion lately, explaining why the community needs a new city hall, and why the city council is interested in purchasing and remodeling the current Community First National Bank building on Main Street.

In presentations made to the Lions Club and local Rotarians, to the Senior Center and Growing Vermillion, they are trying to counter a challenge led by a group of Vermillion citizens who have referred the city hall issue to a public vote Tuesday, Nov. 18.

"I think anytime that you have a referendum and people are opposed to city action, it's a rise to concern," said City Manager James Patrick. "We are taking it seriously, and at this point, we've looked at options, and we've heard some rumors and rumblings."

Community concern about the city's desire to purchase the bank building, he said, appears to be twofold. Some citizens ask about the need to spend money for renovating the modern structure.

Patrick has also heard concerns from people who think the city's purchase of the building will reduce the city's tax rolls by approximately $30,000.

"I guess my counter would be, if we're going to have a new city hall, it's either going to have to be built or remodeled. The city staff and I have gone through the various options available to the city," he said. "Buying the bank building from Community First Bank and renovating it � it's going to have to be renovated because it's a bank, it's not a city hall � is the lowest cost option."

People concerned about a reduction in the city's tax roll need to keep in mind that Community First is committed to constructing a new bank building in Vermillion if the city purchases their present building.

"They (Community First) are running into the same problem that we have when it comes to cost-effective options. To build, you're looking at $100 a square foot," Patrick said. "So if they build half the size that they have now, which would be 10,000 square feet, they're at $1 million, and that's what they are paying taxes on today."

The Community First building was professionally appraised by the bank, not the city.

"It came in at $1.7 million. We were able to negotiate down to $1.1 million, which is what it is assessed at," Patrick said. "Whether you take the appraisal, or whether you take the assessment, we're right in the ballpark, as far as value."

Opponents to the bank's purchase state that the existing city hall has been well-cared for, and should be able to serve the city well for many more years.

Task force report

Patrick said there are a number of deficiencies inherent in the structure that can't easily be solved � deficiencies that were first noted by a task force appointed by Mayor William Radigan in 1997.

In its report to the city council following an inspection of city hall, the task force submitted these findings:

* The building proper is in an adequate state of repair with generally satisfactory heating and electrical systems in place.

* File space is critically short.

* Lighting is marginal.

* The most serious building problems lie in the failure of the rest rooms to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.

* A solution to accessibility of the council chambers for the handicapped is needed. The present arrangement with the library cannot be used permanently.

* Cosmetically, the building presents a sterile, uninteresting appearance. Because of its site location there is no opportunity to provide attractive landscaping.

* Outside parking for visitors is primarily provided on the street. An outside drive-in for dropping off payments would enhance the building functionally.

City hall doesn't have ample parking, and "according to the architects and the structural engineers, even though the heating and air conditioning are working well right now, they are beyond their life expectancy, so they could go anytime," Patrick said.

There also is no cost-effective way to make the building ADA compliant.

"The first floor is not handicapped accessible. You can bring someone in the back door, but there are no

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handicapped-accessible rest rooms, and you can't get into offices because the doorways are too small," Patrick said.

The only two areas in the existing city hall that a handicapped person has access to is a small conference room near Patrick's office on the ground floor, and the city finance department.

City hall's offices and conference rooms take up about 9,000 square feet of space. An additional 5,000 square feet of interior space is used for vehicle storage and as a satellite fire station.

Community First Bank, with its basement, main floor and second floor, offers nearly 20,000 square feet. "Do we need all of that space right now? Probably not," Patrick said, "but if council is going to spend the money to upgrade city hall, we want to do it for the next 75 to 100 years."

Dollar numbers have changed

The Vermillion City Council passed a resolution Sept. 2 to buy the bank building, located at the corner of Main and Church streets, for $1.1 million.

In the resolution, the council also agreed to set aside up to an additional $1.1 million to use to pay for remodeling the bank building.

Petitions calling for a referendum on the city council's Sept. 2 action, which was a legislative decision, were filed at city hall Sept. 25.

And the wording of the ballots in Tuesday's election includes the phrase "with the costs to convert the facility to a city hall not to exceed $1.1 million."

At the time the resolution was passed, it was assumed that the Vermillion School District's administrative offices would also be located in the building.

The Vermillion School Board decided, after the recent failure of its property tax freeze opt-out election, to keep its administrative offices in their present quarters.

"The school district has decided not to co-locate with us, so that's cutting over $250,000 off the original (remodeling) estimate. It's now down to $863,000," Patrick said.

Even if school district's plans hadn't changed, Patrick doubts that remodeling Community First would cost $1.1 million.

"We had to have a figure to go on as far what is it going to cost, and the fear when you get into one of these projects, and the reason the council wrapped it all together was to lay it out to the public saying 'This is a package. We're not trying to hide anything. We're being up front with you as our citizens saying this is what we want to do. It's going to require buying the building; it's going to require remodeling the building.'

"The only thing we can do at this point until we move forward is come up with an estimate," he said.

Patrick said architects made their estimates by using standard guidelines of $50 per square foot for remodeling, and $100 per square foot for new construction.

"That's not saying how many walls we need, that's not saying how many outlets we need, how many doors, or carpeting, or anything else, because we haven't gone there," he said. "We can't go there until council approves me to spend approximately $60,000 on architectural fees to come up with a detailed cost estimate.

Aiming high

Including up to $1.1 million, or, more accurately today, $863,000, for remodeling were questioned right from the start by Alderman Dan Christopherson. He cast the only dissenting vote.

People need to realize, Patrick said, that the city council intentionally included a high remodeling dollar figure in the resolution.

Passing a resolution with too few dollars, he said, could potentially cause problems.

"My fear is I don't want to come in too low (with the remodeling estimate) and have to come back to the council and say ?whoops, we messed up.� I�d rather be high and come in low.

�Do I think we�re going to hit the $863,000? No, I think we�ll come in lower than that. How much lower? I don�t know right now.�

That figure can�t be known until the city council�s resolution receives voters� approval. Once that happens, Patrick said, the city council will authorize the spending of $64,000 for professional architectural fees.

The city has approximately $978,000 in second penny sales tax revenue available, should voters approve the purchase of the bank building Tuesday.

�So with the allocation from next year, there�s no problem purchasing it,� Patrick said. �Depending on how much the bids come in at, we may move some money around at City Hall in different funds and take a loan from ourselves for a couple years to pay it back, but everything is going to come from second penny sales tax.

�Since this is coming from the second penny sales tax and not property tax, I have a selfish reason not to spend any more on this building than possible,� he said. �There are several capital projects that I think we need to get done in the community, and so I�m going to do my best to bring it in as low as possible.�

There are some things Patrick is certain can be accomplished in-house by city staff. Vermillion workers, for example, have the capability to remove the canopy over the bank building�s drive-thru lanes. That will reduce the estimated remodeling dollar figure even further.

�Are there ways we�re going to save money? You bet. Do I know what that�s going to be right now? The only thing I have is what the architect says is the standard cost for remodeling, and that�s all I have to go on until I get the final design done,� Patrick said.

Challenge of remodeling

City leaders have explored the viability of remodeling the present City Hall to meet future needs.

It would be a task fraught with challenges, Patrick said.

An analysis of the existing structural framing was done on City Hall on April 11, 2001 by APEX Structural Design, LLC.

They found areas that do not meet the code required design loads for the uses specified on the proposed architectural design to remodel City Hall.

According to city documents, the analysis determined that:

? some of the floor joists would need to be doubled in order to support the remodel floor plans.

? the proposed remodel of City Hall also showed it would be necessary to move load bearing walls. Moving those walls would require adding new floor joists and footings.

? the existing floor construction in certain areas of City Hall are not suitable to be used as office space and would need reinforcement.

? Additional load bearing reinforcement would be needed for any change in roof framing that is anticipated.

The main floor space once occupied by the Vermillion Fire Department�s trucks at City Hall is still used as satellite fire station.

�To remodel this building here � part of problem is the need to find a space for those fire trucks. They were always intended to be a satellite for response time and to keep everyone�s insurance rating low,� Patrick said.

Remodeling the present City Hall to locate offices and conference rooms in the interior area where vehicles are presently parked would require the purchase of the land and construction of a auxiliary building to be used as a new satellite fire station.

It�s an option that would be more expensive � by approximately $375,000 � than the proposed purchase and remodeling of Community First, according to estimates made last month.

�We would have to enlarge the parking at City Hall, which would require the purchase of either the three homes across the street on National Street, or the three homes back on Elm Street,� Patrick said.

The homes on Elm Street have a total appraised value of $184,900.

Other ideas explored

The city has explored other suggestions that would alleviate some of the problems posed by the current City Hall.

Accompanying each suggestion, it seems, is another set of challenges.

For example, it has been recommended that the city council hold its meetings in the recently constructed William J. Radigan Fire/EMS Center.

On Monday nights, from 6 to 10 p.m., EMT training is conducted the new fire station�s meeting room. On any given week, there are several morning, afternoon and evening meetings or events scheduled in the building.

Patrick knows there are some people who believe City Hall�s ADA deficiencies aren�t reason enough to pursue the Community First building purchase.

The city�s desire to move its offices to the bank building are based on ADA requirements alone, he said. But, Patrick added, it�s a problem that no longer can be ignored.

�I�m inclined not to carry people upstairs anymore for several reasons: the liability of dropping someone for one, secondly, the liability of workmen�s comp if someone hurts themselves carrying a person upstairs,� he said. �The risk is just too big, and I hate to limit anyone from going to the city council chambers, and I guess that�s why I�m being a strong advocate for this. I see the need to allow citizens regarding handicap or regarding physical limitations to be able to meet with their city council.�

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