Sunday, September 16, 2007

City Hall Fate

Much has been said and written on this topic in recent weeks. Let me add that I have a great deal of respect for the contributions made in this community by both Mayor Clay Larkin and businessman Bob Templin so it's unfortunate that the two have found themselves at odds over the issue of retaining the soon-to-be abandoned city hall building. It's important to note that at 30-years-old the current city hall is not of historic value.
Also important to note as you become informed about the many twists and turns of the decision that will go before the voters in November is that the public has never been denied the opportunity to voice an opinion on the subject. City council meetings are open. Councilmembers are elected to represent the public and are available to hear opinions when they're out and about and through more official avenues.

Do I believe that the public ie: taxpayers have the right to decide how our tax dollars are spent? Absolutely.
Do I believe that citizens have the right and the responsibility to challenge elected officials when they feel strongly about decisions to be made? Absolutely.
Do I believe that perhaps the time passed to make those challenges in the case of salvaging the current city hall? Yes. It's time for the citizenry look forward, not behind us. This issue has become divisive and distracting to the discussion of other incredibly important issues such as traffic, growth, public safety etc.
We owe Mr. Templin our gratitude for this lesson learned. We need to be involved in issues at the outset. We need to let our Mayor and Council know that we care about the decisions they're elected to make on our behalf and to have our voices heard. It's more effective and a lot less costly, though, if those opinions are heard at the beginning rather than at the 11th hour.

I encourage you to register to vote if you've not already done so, to vote as if your quality of life depended on it, and vow to put the public back into the public comment portion of every city council meeting.
*if you'd like to review past news articles and editorials about this topic, see the comment section of this post.


Kerri Thoreson said...

From Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls Press
PF Voters May Decide City Hall Fate
Templin intends to put issue on November ballot
Brian Walker; Staff Writer
Published: August 2, 2007
POST FALLS – Don't get the wrecking ball ready just yet. Post Falls' current City Hall has new life. It appears Post Falls voters will ultimately decide the fate of the 7,500- square-foot building at the corner of Fourth and Spokane, City center property owner Bob Templin is resurrecting yet another effort to spare the building from demolition by seeking 264 signatures. If successful, the initiative will be put on the November ballot in conjunction with the City Council races.
"The voters are the boss; let them decide," Templin said. "The mayor and council work for the boss."
Templin has been most vocal about saving the building at least temporarily, but he said others also urged him to start the petition drive.
"I've had numerous friends and neighbors suggest to me that we should save the building," he said. "It just doesn't make sense to destroy a $1 million building. It seems like a lot of people are sympathetic to retain that asset."
Mayor Clay Larkin and the City Council reaffirmed their stance in April to tear down the building after Templin made what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to save it. Two weeks later, construction on the new 41,000-square-foot structure several feet away began. The foundation has been laid and steel beams erected. Completion is slated for next spring.
The plan had been to demolish the existing City Hall after the new one is built. The current City Hall was built in 1979. It was remodeled and added on to in 1997.
City officials have said updating the existing building would be too costly and no one has stepped forward wanting to be in it or pay to maintain it.
"Who is going to pay to upgrade it, maintain it and use it?" said Chris Pappas, city clerk. "That's what we'd like to know. We ask, ask, ask, but nobody has come forward. What does he know that we don't? If it's kept going, it's going to cost money. Money we don't have."
Templin approached the chamber about the building, but the organization declined and now plans to be under one roof with the visitor center at the Cabela's site. But Templin said he believes other agency or civic group possibilities exist.
"Let's retain it for public use," he said.
The city could also rent or lease a portion of the building to generate income, he said.
Pappas said if the building is spared, the design of the new City Hall complex would have to be altered because parking and grassy swales are planned where the current facility is.
There would be a cost for the alteration, but it was immediately unclear what that is.
Larkin and the council based their April decision to move ahead with demolishing the building on the premise it wasn't feasible to maintain it and no one was interested in occupying it.
It was estimated last year that the cost to alter the outer portion to match the new building and campus would be $737,892. Internal repairs, including masonry, electric and roof, was estimated at $225,307. It also costs about $60,000 to operate it annually, city officials said.
The city would not be able to handle those costs in addition to the payment on the new $7 million building, they said.
But Templin said those numbers "scared off" some potential users. He said an architect he spoke with confirmed his belief that the facility is structurally sound and costly repairs would be unnecessary.
Templin said he would like to let the building remain another year or two. Then, if there are no takers, move ahead with demolition plans.
The 264 signatures needed for the proposal to be put on the ballot is 20 percent of the total voters in the last city general election. Templin said he has until Sept. 20 to turn in the signatures.
The initiative petition to the city would create an ordinance requiring "preservation and maintenance" of the existing City Hall "for the benefit and use of public."

Kerri Thoreson said...

From Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls Press

The cost of preservation
Architect outlines costs, changes if possible PF City Hall ballot issue OK'd
Brian Walker; Staff writer
Published: August 16, 2007
POST FALLS – The architect working on the new Post Falls City Hall said on Wednesday that the initial cost to accommodate the current building on the new campus could run more than $200,000. Cory Trapp of G.D. Longwell Architects said that since construction is well under way on the new building, engineering plans would need to be changed and utilities that have been already been moved once would have to be moved again.
"The stormwater swale for the entire north side of the new building is planned for where the current building sits," Trapp said. "(Preserving the current building) also would displace 14 parking spaces, and we'd be required to create an additional 30-40 spaces to accommodate the existing building.
"There's no room on the site to capture another 40 parking spaces in addition to the 165 for the new City Hall."
Construction reconfiguration costs would run between an estimated $100,000 and $200,000, and engineering another $15,000 to $20,000, Trapp said. That does not include repairs and modifications to the existing building and the cost to maintain it.
Trapp, Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin and city administrator Eric Keck spoke on the city's weekly TV program "Post Falls Today" on an effort led by property owner Bob Templin to put preserving the existing City Hall on the November ballot.
"I am not asking that you sign or not sign a petition or that you vote yes or no on a ballot issue," Larkin said. "I am asking that you listen to the same facts that led your City Council to vote to demolish the current facility when the new building is completed. Is this sound use of your taxpayer dollars?"
Templin needs 264 signatures to put the issue on the ballot. He said on Wednesday that he did not know where the number stands. The petition is at several sites.
He said he doesn't anticipate any problems getting the required signatures before the Sept. 20 deadline.
"People have been very enthusiastic about saving the building," Templin said.
Templin said he believes it would be a shame to tear down a functional city building that's paid for. He believes there will be groups or agencies who will be able to use the building, but city officials said they have not found any after asking around.
Keck said saving the existing 7,500-square-foot building would create a budget nightmare since the city has proceeded with plans to tear it down. The city would likely have to take foregone taxes, which it had not planned on doing, to accommodate the building. The move would generate more than $300,000, but also raise property taxes.
Building the new 41,000-square-foot, $7 million building will not increase property taxes, he said.
The city's level of service and programs stand to suffer by accommodating the existing building, Keck said.
"It would create a huge budget shortfall for this next fiscal year," Keck said. "And there isn't many places we can cut."
In addition to the cost for site and engineering changes, the total estimated cost about 18 months ago to upgrade and repair the existing building was $737,000.
That includes changing the exterior to match the new building. The masonry enhancement of $78,500 and roof, electrical and HVAC repairs of $225,000 is also included.
"The cost has probably increased 5 to 10 percent since then," Trapp said.
The city also estimates that the annual cost of ownership for the existing building is about $59,000.
It's all costs that have not been budgeted, Keck said.
Templin said he estimates the existing building is worth $1 million, but Larkin said that is wrong.
"It was purchased for $165,000 in 1979," he said. "It was remodeled in 1997-98 for $357,000."
Larkin said the current value of the building is roughly $220,000.
Completion of the new City Hall is slated for next spring. The city is having it built to consolidate departments, plan for future growth and help create an anchor for the future city center.
Construction reconfiguration costs to preserve the old Post Falls City Hall would run between an estimated $100,000 and $200,000, and engineering another $15,000 to $20,000.

Kerri Thoreson said...

City Hall issue won't make Nov. 6 ballot