NORTH ROYALTON – Now that everyone is content with the initial floor plan for the new city hall, the next step is to hire a criteria architect to develop a more precise budget for the renovation project.
Building Commissioner Dan Kulchytsky drafted a preliminary floor plan a few weeks ago that included two large meeting rooms for the public; space for the mayor, law department and finance department; a council office; a caucus room; and council chambers.
The main purpose of the sketch was to ensure that all the city hall staff and the immense amount of records that must be kept on file could indeed fit within the existing 15,000 square feet of space at the current library on State Road.
The first draft, released two weeks ago, included a caucus room with seating for up to 25 or so people for council committee meetings and caucuses, which the current city hall features now. But including this in the new site would have meant having to tear down a wall and build out a bit, which Council President Larry Antoskiewicz said was unnecessary and inefficient. He has said the room, which pits council members’ backs to the audience, is uninviting and really wasn’t needed, as all public meetings and caucuses could be conducted within council chambers.
“I didn’t think putting a big caucus room for something we don’t use all that much was efficient. The way we do things now, hosting committee meetings prior to council meetings, a caucus room isn’t needed. And now with the changes, we actually have a room for executive session, which seats 10 or 12,” he said. “It opened up some areas for some things, some storage areas. I don’t think people realize how many things we have to store.”
Executive sessions, where council meets privately to discuss property or personnel issues, require council and department heads to leave chambers and meet in another room during regular meetings. Eliminating the larger caucus room freed up the space for this room.
Another revision is that the council office, which was to be situated on the north side of the facility, will move to the south side of the building off the lobby rotunda to better situate the office near council chambers.
Officials seem to be pleased with what they see so far.
“It addresses our needs very well,” Antoskiewicz said. “It’s a great plan, and I am really looking forward to getting it going.”
Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw agreed. He said the 2004 master plan called for the building of a new city hall, library and a rec center, all for the hefty price tag of $30 million. With the addition of the new city hall, all three will have been accomplished for just a fraction of that.
“I’m just excited to have a new location for city hall and that we are doing it in such a way that is friendly for city taxpayers. The original master plan wanted a library, rec and a city hall for $30 million. The city came up with a creative way to accomplish that for significantly less, and I think people appreciate that. It’s time for a new city hall, especially with the amount of technology that we use. Plus, with the new library coming in, we are reusing the current property in a good way,” he said.
Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell said, at first, he felt the caucus room was needed, but he said Antoskiewicz made some good points.
“For me, I thought we needed the (caucus) room. You can never have enough meeting rooms. I thought council would need that in the future for executive sessions or this or that. But you can’t see people or see if they want to talk the way we are seated, which is a good point,” Nickell said. “I like the revised plan.”
Now, the city will begin taking the steps to hire a criteria architect to draft a more detailed plan of the site, which includes mechanical aspects.
“The main point of this initial exercise was to determine whether or not the city’s requirements could fit inside the existing 15,000 square feet of the facility. We listened to storage needs, office needs, IT needs, and we were able to get it inside there,” Community Development Director Tom Jordan said. “The next step is to do a budget and develop criteria for a general contractor.”
Mayor Bob Stefanik said he’s ready to call the new building home sweet home.
“I think this latest plan will serve our current needs and also our future needs. This new plan increases the public-use space tremendously. With the ADA compliance issue and the overall renovation costs to bring the current city hall building up to standard, us moving to the old library is the most cost effective way to service the needs of the community,” he said.
The current city hall is riddled with costly issues that would have had to be rectified soon, if the staff were to stay put there. It is not ADA compliant, certain areas are prone to flooding – even in mild rain events – the wall paper is peeling and the HVAC system has been on the fritz. The phone and computer systems are often criticized too.
“If someone really has doubts about the need for a new facility, all he or she needs to do is come visit us at city hall someday. I would be glad to give a tour of our facility,” Stefanik said.
The hope is to have a general contractor lined up by the time the city gains possession of the library, expected some time in September, so that renovations can then commence immediately and be conducted primarily over the winter.