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Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, May 2 @ 1:44 p.m. / Infrastructure, Local Government
Crescent City Councilors Raise Security Concerns During 'Tour' of New City Hall Plans
Crescent City councilors were enthusiastic about moving out of the Flynn Center and into their own chambers.
But while they also relished the thought of daylighting the fortress that was once the old Bank of America building, they were reluctant to sit on a dais in front of floor length windows. The proposal made Crescent City Police Chief Richard Griffin pause too.
“Unfortunately that’s where my brain goes first is if I’m going to make an attack or something like that on one of these meetings,” Griffin told councilors Monday. “I would definitely not like windows right behind you even if there are coverings or not.”
Meanwhile, the city is still searching for funding. The estimated cost for remodeling the building is $350 to $450 per square foot, City Manager Eric Wier said. At 11,000 square feet, turning the former bank into the new city hall could cost $4 to $5 million, he said.
One potential funding source could be a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wier said.
“We did have a nice discussion with the USDA a couple weeks ago and they could be a lender,” he said. “If the Council is considering this we are looking at a USDA rate of around 4 percent. It was a little under that when I talked to them, but interest rates continue to climb and they offer a rate over a 35-year term.”
Building a new city hall from scratch could cost between $800 and $1,000 per square foot, Wier told Councilors.
New Council chambers is a cornerstone of Dennis Dong’s layout for the new city hall at 240 H Street. Dong, a principal of Calpo, Hom & Dong Architects from Sacramento, said he wanted to open the building up and create a living room of sorts that complements the Beachfront Park and downtown areas.
It would be an extension of a public lobby and could be used by community and staff in addition to the City Council, he said.
Dong took councilors on a virtual tour through their community’s new place of business. The lobby at the bank’s old front entrance on H Street would provide easy access to the building, public works, water and engineering offices where people could pay a utility bill or get a permit.
The old vault in the northeast corner would house a conference room that could also provide space for staff to work with the public as well as a public restroom. Dong proposed using a folding partition to create an open area for Council chambers as well as community activities.
Finance would be near the building, public works, engineering and water offices. The city manager, city attorney, human resources and economic development offices would go in the south area of the building.
There would be space for an IT office, a central copy center and a place to store records and files, Dong said. The building would come with more storage, restrooms for staff, a break room and janitor’s closet.
Councilors would also get their own offices, Dong said.
“With a direct lead-in through a ramp to the Council dais,” he said.
The building currently has floor-length panels underneath existing windows near the ceiling. Dong proposed replacing them with glass.
The current city hall at 377 J Street is a two-story building that’s about 7,000 square feet, Wier said. Public access is limited since offices are upstairs. If someone needs to speak with someone in the building or water office staff often have to come downstairs.
Crescent City bought the former Bank of America building and parking lot in 2017 for about $200,000 and has been figuring out how to turn it into city hall since then. This includes determining if they could work with Johnson Controls on an energy efficiency project, Wier said, but that didn’t pan out.
“Then we had COVID and everything stopped at that point,” he said.
The City Council hired Calpo, Hom & Dong Architects last year.
On Monday, it was Councilor Kelly Schellong who first brought up concerns about security.
“Because it’s such a dark building, I love the openness,” she said. “I just don’t think that’s where the chamber should be for the City Council. It’s surrounded by glass.”
Mayor Pro Tem Blake Inscore suggested staff reach out to the City of Arcata, whose set up is similar to the Crescent City’s proposed city hall.
“When you come into the city hall, they have a moveable partition right off the primary lobby,” Inscore said. “Then they move the partition back and use the lobby as part of the seating area. I think maybe outreach with the City of Arcata might be good since their public meeting space is right off the front entrance; maybe communicating with them and their police department and asking about security.”
Inscore also suggested Wier look into the USDA’s Rural Development program for loans and grants for community facilities.