Building a Legacy

Building a Legacy
Come September, the walls of the Vermillion City Hall will come tumbling down.

It's likely that when the wrecking ball crashes into the building, it will raise more dust than public disconsolation.

After all, the city hall issue has been cussed and discussed in Vermillion for over seven years now.

After numerous public meetings for much of this decade to gather input, and an incredible amount of work by a city hall advisory committee, the Vermillion City Council took the most meaningful step toward the goal of having a gleaming, new city hall in place in time for the city's sesquicentennial, or 150th birthday, in 2009.

After one last round of feedback from Owen Mamura, an architect from the firm Cannon, Mamura, Boss and Brygger of Sioux City, IA, the city council agreed Tuesday to accept the final plans and specifications for the project.

That action in effect has set the construction of the new city hall into motion.

The thorough discussion of this issue by the city council and committee members has virtually guaranteed a consensus among local citizens who recognize that the building is needed.

But the energy that has been expended over the years to explore all options has ironically proven to be costly.

In 2001, it was estimated that a new city hall possibly could be constructed with a price ranging between $1 million and $2 million.

Back in 2003, the city council agreed to purchase the Community First National Bank building, home today to Bank of the West, for $1.1 million, and spend an additional $1 million to remodel its exterior.

Citizens referred the issue to a vote, and it was defeated at the polls.

The plans approved by the city council Tuesday night call for spending approximately $4.8 million to construct the new building.

Mamura has been working with the city since the idea of replacing the aging city hall began to be debated in Vermillion approximately seven years ago.

The architect spoke in both general and specific terms Tuesday night, using documents and a slideshow to show everything from work schedules and floor designs to sketches of the exterior and interior of the building.

According to the production schedule presented by the architect, drawings and specifications of the building's plans will soon be distributed to contractors and suppliers.

Mamura will also contact local contractors recommended by city staff.

A pre-bid conference will be held Tuesday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. The bid date is Thursday, Aug. 23 at 2 p.m.

The new city hall will have a total area of nearly 32,000 square feet. The first step of construction, after the old city hall and some surrounding houses are razed, will be to dig the new building's 10,000 square foot basement.

The main floor will have a total area of approximately 14,780 square feet. The upper level of the new city hall will have a total area of 8,000 square feet.

The lower level will be unfinished, and used primarily for storage.

The main level will include space for staff functions, including space for offices that will house administration, engineering, building inspection, the finance office and customer service space.

Citizens will have the option of either using an elevator or climbing a grand staircase to access the second level, which will feature a lobby area, the city council meeting chambers, and two conference rooms.

If all goes as planned, the contract for the new city hall construction will be awarded at the Sept. 4 city council meeting. By Sept. 18, city offices will be moved from the present building, and the site will be turned over to the contractor the next day, when demolition is expected to begin.

New construction should begin in late October, and is scheduled to be complete in March 2009.

Bob Fuller, a member of the city hall advisory committee, urged the city council to forge ahead, despite the project's growing price tag and recent trends in energy and steel prices that add to construction costs.

"I would ask the council to give every consideration to bids if they happen to come in high," he said. "This is a one-time project; this is a legacy project. This building is going to be a gift to many generations for many, many years."

The city council has set aside $1.5 million generated by Vermillion's second-penny sales tax into a reserve fund.

"That's reflected in our 2007 budget," City Manager John Prescott said. "In March, the city council adopted an ordinance in which it would issue up to $4 million in bonds, also. The bonded indebtedness will be paid for by future second-penny receipts plus the past second-penny receipts which we built up."

Prescott said the bonds would be issued and sold sometime this fall after the bids for the project come in.

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