NORTH ROYALTON – As city hall staff watched the first moving truck pull up and the building became emptier and emptier with each box that was carried out, it finally began to sink in.
Legislative Services Director Laura Haller and Council Secretary Dana Schroeder stood together in Haller’s vacant office, surveying the history, the memories, but also the necessity of the day.
“I’ve worked here for so long. I knew this was happening, but it didn’t feel real until now,” she said.
They were ready to head over to the new building to embark on the next chapter.
“It’s amazing. Just beautiful,” Haller said of the new city hall. “It does the city of North Royalton proud.”
“It is what it should be for a city like North Royalton,” Schroeder added.
Downstairs, the move was hitting Mayor Bob Stefanik too. He had mixed emotions. As he stood in his office for a final time, he looked around somewhat sad to walk away from the history, yet excited for the fresh start.
“I’ve been here since 1999, when I started on council,” he said taking in the room. “Some of our staff has been here much longer.”
He walked from room to room sharing some of the history, looking at each one last time.
While the staff gathered up small personal belongings, a crew from Armbruster Moving handled the heavy lifting.
On Nov. 7, city hall staff said goodbye to the old building at 13834 Ridge Road and hello to their new permanent home, the old library, now officially the North Royalton City Hall at Memorial Park, 14600 State Road.
Serious discussions leading up to this day first began more than two years ago. The library was building a new location, and when they vacated the old site, it would revert back into city ownership. The administration and council seized the opportunity.
The old city hall has served as such since 1937. The front porch looks beautiful from the road, but up close the building shows its age. The interior’s issues are blatant, with the No. 1 offense being a lack of handicap accessibility. It is also plagued by flooding issues, and the HVAC needs updating. The phone and Internet systems were lagging. The new site addresses all these needs.
The old library, also sorely in need of a makeover, was completely gutted this year, offices fashioned, and the building was brought into the 21st century. A fiber optics line was laid from the police station, up Royalton Road and down to the new city hall, a move that will save thousands. The phones operate through this system too. Most all the city buildings will tie in too, and there is now Wi-fi for the public, not only at these buildings but at Memorial Park, the York Road baseball fields and the Lucille Heasley soccer field.
Over at the new city hall, the finance department was already methodically unpacking and making huge strides. Finance Director Eric Dean said he is beyond impressed with the new home.
“It’s amazing. I think they did a great job. It’s nice to see it all come together versus seeing it in plans,” he said.
Community Development Director Tom Jordan, who has been extensively involved in the project serving as a liaison between the contractor and the city, was on hand to assist in getting the staff settled.
Jordan was talking to Council President Larry Antoskiewicz, who was there for the big day too.
He said he’s looking forward most to the new council chambers and the high-tech capabilities. There is a large TV screen affixed behind council on the dais, and there are two large flat screens along the right side of the room. Now when there’s a presentation or materials to project, everyone will be able to view them together.
“Obviously, the way the new council chambers is set up, the forum, it is more resident friendly. I think when residents come to a council meeting, caucus or a community meeting, they will not only find it more inviting, but it gives us the opportunity to be more informative,” Antoskiewicz said.
He announced at the last meeting at the old building, the sidewalk study meeting Nov. 6, that it would be the last night as city hall and encouraged residents to say their goodbyes.
“And most everyone was really positive about what we are doing,” he said. “I think when people see this new building, it will remain positive, and that, No. 1, we did a good job reusing a building that would have remained empty, and that, No. 2, we kept the costs reasonable but still made a really nice building that residents will be proud of.”
Stefanik arrived shortly after, and joined Jordan and Antoskiewicz in admiring the new digs.
Crews were still on site finishing up last-minute details with the roof, power washing the building and completing the community meeting room.
The newness was still fresh for Stefanik, who ran a hand along a textured stone wall.
“This is really amazing,” he said.
Phil Kish, of the North Royalton-based business KIKS, was unpacking seating in the council chambers.
“Do you like it?” he paused to ask the mayor.
“Oh yeah. It’s looking good, looking good,” Stefanik said. He took a minute to grab a seat in the very last row of the room to absorb it all.
Once in his new office, the mayor began to unpack, but he’s leaving its decor to the professional, his wife Janice.
“I’m having her come in tomorrow to decorate. Eight hours on a Saturday – a lunch and two breaks. She said something about time and a half, but you have to put in 40 hours for that,” Stefanik teased.
Naturally conversation turned to the old building.
The 2004 master plan recommended building not only a brand new city hall, but also a new library and a rec center at a cost of $35 million total in 2004 dollars. All three have been accomplished at a cost to the city of just a sixth of that original recommendation.
“It’s difficult leaving the old city hall behind,” the mayor said. “But this is the best choice for our community. We’re going from a building that was never insulated properly, that was old and inefficient, to a building that is very energy efficient. This will take care of our municipal needs for decades to come.”
He encourages residents to experience the building for themselves at the city hall open house from noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 13, where they will be able to walk about the building freely and enjoy refreshments and light snacks.
“It’s the community’s building,” he said. “It belongs to the residents.”
Resident and North Royalton Library Manager Jeanne Cilenti can’t wait to see her old branch transformed.
“I want to see that dark cave-like entryway gone,” she said. “It was a nice building at the time, but it really wasn’t adequate for our city for a library. It will be so much better as a city hall. Reusing our building in a cost effective manner, this is so much better for all of us.”
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