Demolition of the 1950s-era city hall began Monday evening as the City Council took a few ceremonial whacks at columns and walls that will come down in earnest within the next week.
Armed with sledgehammers, the City Council marched a few hundred feet Monday from their temporary meeting site in a nearby two-bedroom home to the old city hall where over the next year a new 10,000-square-foot building will rise to take its place.
After several years of debate, the city decided to replace the aging city hall, which had deteriorated severely over the years.
When voters approved disbanding the city's Police Department, this sharply reduced the space needed in the new building and made construction more affordable.
The city budgeted about $3-million for the new structure. The cost may rise by several hundred thousand dollars because of the need for underground pilings to both support the new building and protect underground telephone cabling buried in an easement owned by Verizon.
City officials are still negotiating with Verizon over the positioning of the new city hall, which now lies over the easement.
Council member Rob Baldwin, who also serves as chairman of the council's building committee, said Tuesday the city and the utility company have reached "an agreement in concept" that would allow the new city hall to be built on the original site as long as Verizon's cabling is protected and the company is allowed access.
Verizon is now drawing up a final agreement.
Without the agreement, the city hall would be forced to be moved to a new location and possibly redesigned to fit the different site.
"The project is moving along well," said Baldwin, who stressed that less expensive options to pilings would not have addressed the Verizon easement issue.
Demolition of the old city hall is expected to be completed within a few weeks. The adjacent public works building also will be torn down.
One of five prequalified contractors will be selected sometime in May and construction is expected to begin in June or July, City Manager Nancy McCollum reported.
During the 12 to 18 months expected for completion of the new city hall, the council will continue to meet in the garage of the Cedar Drive home purchased by the city last year.
The garage is fitted with an old, U-shaped table and enough seating for about 30 spectators. When more show up, the council opens the garage doors to allow the overflow crowd to spill out onto the driveway.
Inside, the living and dining areas and two bedrooms are split into office and desk space for McCollum, the city clerk, and the city treasurer, as well as other city staff and the on-duty sheriff's deputy.
City records are stored both in temporary on-site mobile storage units and off-site.