Vermillionâ�?�?s new city hall is open for business Municipal staff moves into building on Friday By David Lias
Plain Talk After years of planning, debate and public input that even included a special election, the city of Vermillion finally has a place to call home. A beautiful new city hall structure stands in the same area where the old city hall used to be. On Friday, March 20, the city staff moved from their temporary offices located at the corner of Dakota and Main streets to the new structure. The new city hall, which boasts spacious offices and conference rooms and is fully handicapped-accessible, is a great improvement compared to the community's previous city hall. That old building, in fact, first served Vermillion as a power plant, and was never designed to meet the needs of the municipal staff. The new building also has a unique style — natural light floods the lobby through its large windows, and it even includes something above its front door that is normally found in city buildings built generations ago — a large analog clock. When it was decided that the best place to build the new city hall was the same location as the old building, city leaders agreed that the best thing to do would be to raze the old building. It had outgrown its usefulness and was offering too many challenges for city staff. "For us, this building is a huge step forward in providing services to the public," City Manager John Prescott said. "Even the initial impression and the welcome that we give people when they walk into the building. With the old city hall, you walked in and you had a staircase right in the front of you, and a door way immediately to your right and to your left. It didn't really say much other than you'd arrived at somebody's back entry." People who visit the new city hall will step into an open, inviting lobby, Prescott said. "There is a sense of arrival when you enter the building, and we wanted to make it easy to identify where it is they would be able to receive the services they are seeking." The finance staff is located to one's right as they walk into the lobby. Their desks are designed to appear and function much like teller bays in a bank, to help people who are paying bills or need help with other paperwork. To one's left are offices for staff that provide general government services, such as the city manager, building permits, code enforcement and park and recreation administration. Prescott said it is important that the stairway leading to the second floor city council meeting chambers stands prominently in the lobby. "When you reach the top of the stairs, basically the council chambers are straight ahead of you," he said. "A lot of people come to this building to attend the meetings, so we wanted to make the council chambers inviting and easy to access." The second floor also contains a large meeting room, and a small meeting room. "We think they will work well for groups," Prescott said. "We've particularly noticed where the community can have up to three meetings going on at once at the library, but the amount of space they have in that building wasn't designed for that. We anticipate that city hall will be able to be used by the community when space isn't available in other buildings." The architect for the building, the late Owen Mamura, gathered input from city administrators and staff members, and transformed those ideas into the design of the new structure. "We thought about the services we need to provide and how best to provide those in an easy, accessible manner," Prescott said. "We also took into account the people who are working here who provide those services. "We don't have a large staff," he said, "so it's important to have the ability to have people work together on a lot of different projects, or to share documents and files. When you design a building or workspace and its constructed to serve that need, you get a better return than if you retrofitted another building to provide that need." The new city hall is designed to provide office and work space for the municipal staff for many, many years to come. It's important, Prescott said, for the building to have the capability to grow and offer more services as Vermillion grows in the future.' "We have in our finance area four work stations that are available and three of them will be staffed. That means we have the capability to add an extra person in our finance department," he said. "We also have different expansion areas. The basement is a future expansion space, and should the fire bays leave the city hall structure at some point in time, it's set up so that those areas can also be moved into for office-type uses or other uses." The architect also designed the new city hall so that an addition could be constructed on the east side of the building without impacting the parking lot. "The architect met with various departments to better understand what they may need for space," Prescott said. "He met with different people and learned what their needs are, and put that together to develop the work plan that we have."