City Council gets first look at City Hall plans

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home City Council last week got a look at drawings of the new City Hall building.

Scott-Edwards Architects is in the plan development phase of the project, which will remodel the former Sweet Home Ranger District office building, 3225 Main St., for use as City Hall. The federal government constructed the building in 1989 for use as a ranger district office. The city purchased the property in 2016 for $750,000.

Project Manager Liz Kale outlined features in the design during a work session held on Feb. 27.

“One of the big pieces is sort of that public-private separation and trying to keep the council and those conference rooms in the lobby up front and all in one spot so that we have the opportunity to close those off at night,” she said. Designers aimed to ensure adjacent areas could find efficiencies in common areas, and “having separate employee and public restrooms was something that was also mentioned as being very important,” she said.

Looking for an an open office culture, “we kind of took advantage of some of the openings that were within that structure,” Kale said.

“Given the engineering of the building, with the load-bearing walls, we worked really, really hard to not mess with those because that was going to be the expense,” said City Manager Ray Towry. “Whatever we could do to utilize space and not mess with any of those load-bearing walls was kind of a primary goal.

“A couple of goals that we have that we talked about, one was obviously ease of entrance for the public and service for the public being first and foremost. Second was staff security and safety, which is why you see a separation, and the other was we wanted meeting space for the public.”

The seven city councilors gathered around the map to discuss the designs. They suggested various arrangements for two conference rooms, bathrooms and security doors.

Councilor Bob Briana was concerned about knocking down three walls to build four new ones 3 feet away, for example. Councilors discussed whether an exterior wall should have one or two windows, and Councilor Dave Trask floated the idea of moving a security door, which would block some restroom access. He was concerned about spending too much money on the project and suggested the new City Hall would not need as many stalls as it has in the drawings.

As of last week, a citizen entering the new City Hall would be in a lobby on the north side of the building. To the left would be two conference rooms where city staff can meet with the public, a developer for example. From there, staff members would be able to network to their computers or use laptops to display information on large monitors.

Straight ahead to the south, the public would see two windows. The window on the left would access utility billing services, while the window on the right accesses building and planning services.

The building and planning functions will be housed on the west side of the building, while utility billing and administration take up much of the center of the building. The new City Council Chamber is located to the left of the main entrance and east of the billing and administration area.

Along the eastern side of the building, an area will remain unmodified and be available for lease.

“This is great,” said Councilor James Goble. “This is what we talked about.”

“We heard lots of ideas,” said architect Sid Scott. His firm will take those suggestions and redraw a couple of options for the council’s consideration.

Councilors present at the meeting were Briana, Trask, Mahler, Goble, Diane Gerson, Lisa Gourley and Susan Coleman.