Council OKs City Hall remodel plan

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council last week settled on plans for remodeling the new City Hall.

After receiving comments from city councilors last month, Liz Kale, Kate Dougherty and Sid Scott of Scott-Edwards Architecture presented two new options to the council during a work session on March 13.

The new options used more of the building’s existing walls and infrastructure than earlier plans, taking to heart all the elements mentioned by the council during the February meeting, Kale said.

Councilors identified further adjustments they would like to see around the building, the former site of the U.S. Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger District, at 3225 Main St.

The council purchased the building as its new City Hall in July 2016 for $750,000.

The building was constructed in 1989 for the Ranger District, which moved to its work center at 4431 Main St. in May 2006. With shrinking staffing and budget levels, Ranger District officials sought to save more than $100,000 per year. The ranger district had paid $240,000 per year in lease payments for the 12,000-square-foot building.

Councilors present at the meeting said they liked the new plans and suggested a few changes they would prefer in the final design. SEA will take that information, adjust the plans further and return for council approval of the plans.

Present at the meeting were Bob Briana, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Dave Trask and Diane Gerson. James Goble and Susan Coleman were absent.

Under the current plan, the eastern side of the building will remain unused and be available to lease, but City Manager Ray Towry asked the council to consider moving Public Works to the new City Hall and using space there for Public Works offices.

Public Works is located at 1400 24th Avenue, last used by Wimer Trucking. The city purchased the property from Weyerhaeuser for $250,000 in 2008, vacating 1730 9th Avenue, which is currently listed for sale.

Towry told the council that if a dam were to break, Public Works would be under water while the new City Hall would not. He suggested moving the offices to the City Hall building with space behind City Hall serving as its maintenance yard.

The building could be adapted to that use, Scott told the council.

Mahler said that members of the public have asked him why the city doesn’t merge Public Works and City Hall functions.

Public Works Director Greg Springman said the 24th Avenue facility has a lot of space that isn’t being used and the department could fit on the new City Hall property.

Towry said it might just come down to insulation and drywall, but he wants to walk through the building again with Springman.

Trask and Mahler said the city should probably focus on the new City Hall project right now, but Briana said he is liking the idea of bringing in Public Works. Gerson said the city needs to look at the idea now, while it’s remodeling the building.

The whole building is essentially gutted, Scott said. It makes economic sense to do it at the same time.

Mahler asked how the city would fund it, who would fund it – “Which rich uncle?”

“We feel really good about it,” Towry said. “Brandon (Niesh, finance director) is forecasting a surplus that (combined with what the city has saved) may cover the whole bill (or close to it).”

That fact is uncertain at this point, Towry added, and “I’m not going to be quoted on that.”

Scott told the council that the city could submit it as an alternate plan during the bidding process and decide then whether to move forward.

“If we can do it, we can do it,” Towry said. “If we can’t, we can’t.”

SEA began discussing finish options for the new City Hall with a focus on wood and timber in styles that are durable not trendy, designed more for long-term use.

SEA representatives planned to bring back concepts for the council’s consideration.