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Monroe may pursue new City Hall

MONROE — The City Council agreed on Oct. 1 to explore constructing a new municipal building for the city’s campus. The proposed changes would combine City Hall and the police station into a modern building, while also increasing on-site parking.
The council requested Public Works Operations and Maintenance Manager Jakeh Roberts investigate any further required steps to move forward and public outreach efforts.
Possible funding sources for the project has council members’ interest. They asked whether the city could get an appropriation from the state Legislature or using a portion of city real estate excise tax income as options. The portion of city real estate excise tax income as options. The council also discussed how the parks bond on this November’s ballot might affect whether the city should ask voters for a city bond to pay for part of the City Hall plan.
Monroe is plotting a long timeframe to decide. A city timeline suggests it might seek a construction contractor in 2022. It could decided to put forward a bond in 2021. A discussion on funding is scheduled for next February, with a public survey on a bond next summer.
Constructing a new combined facility would involve tearing down some of the current buildings. The integrated municipal building would have a target size of 37,000 square feet. It would be constructed where the city’s shop garage is presently located, while the existing city and police offices remain functional.
The council determined in July that the campus should remain at its current location on its 7.7-acre property in the 800 block of West Main Street. Members had previously approved, in February, exploring two distinct options to meet current and future needs for growth projected over the next 50 years: Looking at other locations to build a new municipal campus elsewhere within city limits, and commissioning a report of options for upgrading the current site.
Two options for remaining at the current site were presented at the Oct. 1 meeting. One choice involved renovating and adding onto the existing structures. The alternative was constructing a new municipal building, which is what the council expressed interest in.
A new structure, as well as rebuilding the police evidence area, is estimated to cost $18.7 million, but that doesn’t include sales tax or design fees. After completion, staff would be moved into the new building to allow demolishing the existing structures.
The council expressed interest in finding possible ways to bring the cost of the new construction down. Several also acknowledged the potential for long-term operational expense benefits by building a structure designed and built using today’s energy-saving materials and standards.
The report estimated a proposed remodel would cost an estimated $11.4 million, but this price also doesn’t include sales tax or design fees. Any remodeling would either need to be done in phases, or offices and staff would need to be relocated during construction.
A remodel and expansion would bring a new lobby and meeting spaces, court offices and chambers for the City Council, and expand the police station’s footprint.
City Hall was originally built in 1977 and has subsequently been remodeled and added-on to a number of times.
Contracted architect Lee Driftmier, providing a facilities assessment report, told the council Oct. 1 that the item of most concern is City Hall doesn’t have any fire sprinklers and the old fire insulation fails to meet current code standards. He said that after an expansion project in 2007 that attached this building to the nearby shop garage, the building is “about twice as big as the building is allowed to be without sprinklers,” Driftmier said. “Obviously when it was built in 1977 that was not an issue, but the 2007 issue is not really grandfathered in.”
The building isn’t energy efficient, and has old doors and windows. He noted, “You can see the outside through (a gap in) the City Hall main doors so clearly air is coming in there.” He also observed that there are at least three types of roofing systems on City Hall, which he said is not ideal for keeping out water.
The HVAC system is past its life expectancy and the refrigerant used in a number of units is no longer available.
According to the report, both the building and the site have a number of ADA issues, including bathroom accessibility, an outside ramp that lacks railings and one which extends into the driving lane of the parking lot. Additional items include door clearance issues and countertops that are too high.  
Driftmier said that while a remodel would look more aesthetically pleasing, it would still obviously be two separate buildings, and he thought it would actually be an easier transition to build a combined structure.
Constructing a new facility would also be more energy efficient, he said, because it wouldn’t involve the intensive process of removing and replacing the interior walls and insulation.



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