All 4 city hall options may be explored

All 4 city hall options may be explored Peters by David Lias If the process doesn't prove too costly, the Vermillion City Council hopes to gather dollar estimates for demolishing present structures and constructing a new city hall building at three proposed sites in town, while also reviewing what it would cost to purchase and renovate the Bank of the West building.

Rich Braunstein, chairman of the city hall advisory committee, told council members Monday that the group deliberated for months since being formed in 2004.

�The committee decided not to pursue renovation options,� he said. �This was a consensus opinion of the committee. Our committee believes that the renovation of the current city hall would be far too costly to meet our current needs, and would provide far too little as far as improvements for the future.

�This was based on estimates of costs associated with meeting space needs of existing city administration, providing for the future growth potential of city government, restructuring the building to meet existing state fire codes, federal ADA and labor standards, providing adequate storage for

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existing and future records, and improving the work flow for current and future administrators,� he said.

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.

On Tuesday, July 26, the idea of demolishing the present city hall and building new on that site received the most support from the committee. Purchase of Bank of the West building came in second, followed by purchase and demolition of the old National Guard Armory.

Buying, tearing down and building at the Fullerton Lumber site received the fewest votes from committee members.

�I would like to suggest to the council that there is a great deal of missing information,� said John Storm. �I would like to request a meeting with the council to tour one of the buildings we represent, that would be the Bank of the West building.�

Such a tour, Storm said, would give his investment group an opportunity to share information with city leaders.

Storm represents an investment group that reached an agreement last January to purchase the Bank of the West building, opening up the possibility of a possible lease or lease-purchase option for relocating city operations.

�I hope that the council will consider our responsibilities to our predecessors � our keeping the faith with the tenacious people who founded Vermillion,� committee member Ted Muenster said. �And also to make a decision to present a gift to those who will follow this. I hope the city government understands the historic nature of this decision.�

�I want to encourage all of you, and that includes members of the general public who are interested in this project, to read the same documents that we did on the committee,� said Bob Fuller, committee member. �Read all of the architectural reports, the information from previous citizen�s groups who looked at this problem a few years ago and the space needs assessment that was done by our consultant.

�It�s very important that anybody who wants to vote intelligently on this particular issue have the kind of background trail that this committee has experienced,� he said.

Committee member Howard Willson said he approached the task of studying Vermillion�s city hall issue with an open mind.

�After 17 months, I think I have a pretty good idea of exactly what we need according to all of the information we�ve been given,� he said. �I hope that you take this information and you build on it.�

Willson noted that Vermillion is constantly asking people and businesses to make a wide range of investments in the community by constructing new buildings and providing new jobs.

�We better do something for ourselves, folks,� he said. �We better show the public and the people we�re asking to come here that we care about Vermillion and we�re willing to invest in Vermillion.�

Committee member Nikki Peters noted that the group hasn�t made a formal recommendation of any site for the Vermillion�s new city hall.

�We�ve recommended the four sites,� she said. �We have adjusted and ranked the four sites the best that we could.

�I hope that all four sites would still be looked at,� she said.

Mayor Dan Christopherson said he at one time believed the current city hall could be remodeled.

�I no longer think that is economically prudent and it wouldn�t be the right way to spend tax dollars,� he said. �I firmly believe that we should make this a legacy project for our future; that we should plan for a ribbon cutting no later than 2009� when Vermillion celebrates its sesquicentennial or 150th birthday.

Braunstein said the advisory committee has agreed to continue offering its services to the city. The committee will also lead efforts to refer the final decision of the council to a public vote.

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