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Rushford moves forward with city hall

By Kirsten Zoellner

Mon, Apr 30th, 2012
Posted in Rushford All

Architect Jose Rivas, of CRW Architecture and Design Group, has presented updated plans and cost estimates to the city for its planned remodel and move of the city hall into the vacant, former municipal liquor store. The transition of city hall to the 4,500 square foot facility, lending city function 2,700 more square feet than it’s currently using in the west end of the Tews Memorial Library Building.

The two scenarios, “A” and “B,” both call for making the most use of existing plumbing, electrical, and mechanical services, as well as interior wall space. The bulk of the work involves demolition, rough carpentry and framing, architectural woodwork and casework, and some electrical/lighting, and plumbing.

Both options would offer no open access to staff work area, instead utilizing a lobby and business window. In the former retail area, three staff members would occupy the work area, with a separate city administrator office, large storage room, small storage room, and a map room/flex office. The bathrooms would remain the same. The former bar area will become the council chamber area.

The only noticeable difference in the two options is a larger, wider chamber area and a hallway break area for staff in option “B.” According to Rivas, option “A” utilizes existing walls more efficiently.

Cost estimates for option “A” ring in at $162,750, while option “B” is $169,575. Both figures include a $15,000 furniture/equipment allowance, if needed. An optional electrical generator is not included in the figures, but would require an extra $26,000 to $41,000 if purchased.

Mayor Hallum was the sole suggestion favoring option “B.” “I’d like to open up the chamber more, so people can see us and hear us, with the new sound system. It serves the public. Is $7,000 worth a better presentation to the public? I think it is.”

City Administrator Steve Sarvi noted that city staff preferred option “A” due to less demolition and the configuration of the rooms. Another staff concern is the council meeting only twice a month in the large chamber area. “Can we better utilize the area?” asked Sarvi. Option “A” was chosen in a 3-1 vote, with Councilor Roger Colbenson opposed.

“It’s the price I don’t like. The citizens might begrudge us for spending money on it,” he noted. “$22,000 for general conditions, permits, and bonds?”

“Yes,” responded Sarvi. “Contractors will have to provide a bid bond and performance bond.”

Councilor Robert Dahl also questioned what funds would be utilized to make the project a reality. The city has received preliminary approval from the USDA for the project. The USDA funds, a loan opportunity granted back in March of 2010, was geared initially for a library/city hall project, and is not to exceed $2.234 million dollars, at a current fixed rate of 4 percent, for a 40-year term. The funds can be repaid at any time without penalty. Another option is to try to find the money internally, a move which could potentially deplete other needed funds. For now, the city is leaving its funding options wide open.

“We don’t want to do this in a way where we worry about the details later,” cautioned Mayor Hallum.

Now that a design scenario has been chosen, Rivas will begin to put the bid package together. “You have an asset down there,” he asserted. “Find a purpose for it with a desirable outcome. In this case, with city hall moving and opening up the space to the library, you’re getting two positive outcomes.”

Prior to any transition and remodeling, the council is moving forward with the sale of equipment from the former liquor store using Request for Proposals (RFP) to maximize potential sales. They hope to have the building cleared out by May and anticipate being done with the entire project by summer.

In other news, the city has once again tossed around a potential reduction in fees at the City Aquatic Center, as well as the continuing topic of resident versus non-resident fees.

Councilor Bunke, who was absent from the meeting, but in a note to the city administrator favored a reduction in fees for the 2012 year. “A reduction in fees would have to be offset by usage. I’m not sure that will happen,” noted Administrator Sarvi. “Residents would pick up financial shortfall.”

“The non-resident share, since 2002, has crashed,” noted Councilor Mark Honsey. “I’m of a similar mindset as Mr. Bunke. We’re not going anywhere with the express difference in resident and non-resident fees.”

“Frankly, the pool was not designed for the majority of users, age 12 and under,” added Sarvi. “Will a reduction effect the attendance? Maybe. Will it effect the profits? Maybe.”

City Clerk Kathy Zacher pointed out that while daily attendance would potentially suffer only a $200 shortfall if a reduction in fees was put in place, lessons could suffer a substantial $4,500. “Looking at other municipalities and clubs, it’s standard to charge a resident/non-resident or member/non-member fee,” she stressed.

“I feel like our residents deserve the advantage,” added Mayor Hallum. “It’s a premium for those that do live here. They bear the brunt of the losses.”

Honsey suggested an effort be put forth with surveys of pool attendees. “The resident and non-resident fees, it’s an issue that causes some heartache. If we want peace here in the valley, with the village and Peterson, this could be a step forward.” Aquatic Center Manager Robby Ebner also recommended that the difference in fees be eliminated in his end of year report for 2011.

“He doesn’t see the money end of it though,” quipped Sarvi.

“No, but he hears the day to day gripes about it,” responded Honsey.

The council approved the fees to remain the same as in 2011 in a 3 to 1 vote with Honsey opposed.

The next regularly scheduled city council meeting is Monday, May 14, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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