Committee: Tear down city hall; build new structure building at city hall location

Committee: Tear down city hall; build new structure building at city hall location By David Lias The Vermillion City Council will receive a recommendation at its Aug. 1 meeting to tear down the current city hall building and construct a new one at the same site.

That is the decision of the Vermillion City Hall Advisory Committee, following a lengthy, and sometimes contentious meeting in the city hall�s meeting chambers Tuesday night.

The committee also agreed to offer its continued services to the city council after making its recommendation, and to become involved in making sure that any decision made by city leaders to expend funds for demolition and new construction is referred to citizens in a public election.

The advisory committee was formed in March 2004 after the city�s attempt to purchase the Bank of the West building was referred to a public election and rejected by voters.

Since then, the committee has met 30 times. It has conducted community surveys, reviewed previous studies of the existing municipal office building and shared them with the public, hired consultants and conducted public tours of city hall.

Committee members have narrowed a field of 20 possible sites for the city hall location down to four: the current city hall site, the Bank of the West building, property where Fullerton Lumber is currently located on Main Street, or property that contains the old National Guard Armory at the corner of Market and Kidder streets.

Chairman Rich Braunstein asked each committee member individually to rank the four sites. Braunstein assigned four points to a member�s top choice, three points for the runner-up, two points for the third choice and one point to site receiving a fourth place ranking.

Tearing down the current city hall and rebuilding on the site received 38 points. The second most popular conclusion of committee members was purchase of the Bank of the West building, followed by locating city hall on the old National Guard Armory site.

The Fullerton Lumber site ranked fourth. The lumber company is in the process of constructing a large new building on its Main Street property.

�I believe that the process calls for ongoing dialogue between the council and us,� Braunstein said. �I hope ? that this committee wants to see the process through and doesn�t want to dump it in the city council�s lap. We believe that this recommendation that we�re making does not end the process.�

Committee member Ted Muenster likened the committee�s decision Tuesday to a rallying cry throughout the Vermillion community.

�I don�t think any of us really know what the public thinks,� he said. �But I owe the community and the public my best judgement, on knowing what I know, and I�m comfortable in having a sense on where we ought to go with this.�

Vermillion has, in the past, languished, Muenster said, �but I think right now we�re on a roll. I think this community is on the move,� noting that citizens have indicated support for public schools through a property tax freeze opt-out. New industries are locating here, USD is investing over $100 million in capital improvements, and streetscape plans are in place to improve downtown.

�It seems to me this committee and the city should have no less confidence in itself,� Muenster said.

He told the committee that �we owe something to the people who will come after us. I think we want to have a city hall � a city center if you will � that will be a point of pride 50 years from now.�

Muenster said he favored demolishing the present city hall and constructing a new building. He added that no attempts should be made to refurbish the present city hall because of its poor design and condition.

�That would be excessively costly,� he said, �and you still wouldn�t have a perfect building. I think it would be foolish.

�It was constructed in 1915 as a power plant, and in 1950 the former city hall was torn down, and my understanding is they came over here as a temporary location,� Muenster said, �and here we are 50 years later in a building meant to be a temporary location.�

Braunstein noted at a public meeting last week that the costs of a new city hall at the three sites requiring demolition would roughly cost $3 million. �The bank building, not requiring demolition but renovation, would come in probably $600,000 or $700,000 less than those sites,� he said. �I want to make it clear those costs are estimates. It�s not this committee�s expertise or responsibility to negotiate anything like final costs.�

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