Citizens provide input on city hall

Citizens provide input on city hall
For years now, the need of a new city hall in Vermillion has been a topic of nearly constant debate.

Wednesday night, citizens who packed the meeting room of the William Radigan Fire Station moved beyond that step to start talking about design features of the structure which hasn't yet reached the drawing board stage.

Judging from the comments, the new building won't be featuring the latest design trends, at least on the exterior.

Citizens, noting that downtown Vermillion is a national historic district, emphasized the importance of the new structure to blend in with the current architecture of the city's Main Street buildings.

"We're hoping that this will be a legacy project for our sesquicentennial, which is the 150th anniversary of our city," said Mayor Dan Christopherson. "That will be in 2009, and we're on a track now where we can obtain a ribbon cutting in 2009 if this is something that the public wants and if this is something that the public supports."

The new building, he said, would likely serve the community for 75 to 100 years. "We can put the kind of technology in it where we can serve the public well," he said. "We want to make it a user-friendly and a citizen-friendly type of environment, a type of place where we can get the public's work done in a timely and efficient manner."

A six-member committee, consisting of three Vermillion City Council members and three citizens, are currently reviewing design options for the new building and seeking public input.

They took notes as the meeting audience provided their ideas for the new structure.

City Manager John Prescott noted that, after months of review by yet another citizens' committee, the decision was made to build the new city hall on the site of the present city hall structure.

The city has already taken steps to help make that a reality. They have purchased three nearby homes which eventually will be razed to provide adequate room for the new building and parking.

"By next March, we hope to have a proposal to bring back to the community," Prescott said, "and after that, we would look forward to design the bid specs (for the building). We would place it out for bid, and award that bid in mid-June of 2007."

Construction would hopefully begin, Prescott said, by August 2007.

"We're estimating that it is a 16 to 18 month project, to demolish the current city hall building and construct a new city hall building on that site," Prescott said.

The new structure, according to a space needs assessment completed two years ago, needs to be approximately 21,300 square feet in size. It would contain offices and city council meeting chambers.

City planners have also decided to include space in the new building to house ambulances and fire trucks that currently are located in the present city hall.

"We would hope to incorporate that space in such a manner that it would be the future expansion space of city hall," Prescott said. "When we reach that point, say in 15 or 20 years, then in may be time to construct a satellite fire station for to house that equipment, so we could utilize that space in city hall."

During the construction of the new building, that equipment would be moved to the William J. Radigan Fire Hall and to the municipal services center on Duke Street.

Also, some of the staff of city hall would temporarily move their offices into two of the recently purchased houses nearby as a cost-saving measure.

"We hope to develop the facility in a fiscally responsible manner," Prescott said. "We're hoping to develop a building that's customer-friendly, and we're looking at setting up a highly-accessible building, both in terms of ADA accessibility, and public accessibility."

Matt Fairholm, moderator of the meeting, helped record the input offered by citizens Monday night.

Audience members stressed the need for public space in the building, including a reception area, a city council room and perhaps a second public meeting room that could be created by a divider.

It was also noted that audio/visual equipment, computers, the ability to televise meetings and other technology should be considered.

"Not every idea is going to be incorporated," Fairholm said, "but without the idea, we won't know what will be incorporated."

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