Moving day at city hallIt has been six years since a task force recommended a new city hall be constructed at the corner of Third and Spruce streets in downtown Farmington.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
It has been six years since a task force recommended a new city hall be constructed at the corner of Third and Spruce streets in downtown Farmington. Next Monday, that new city hall will open to the public.
This week marks the end of Farmington City Hall’s longtime location at the corner of Oak and Fourth streets. The Farmington City Council marked the end of an era with a few bittersweet words during Monday’s meeting, but council members also talked of how much they look forward to the move to a new home.
Moving day will be this Friday. City offices will be closed on Friday so the many boxes, records, filing cabinets and personal belongings can be moved. The new city hall will open to the public bright and early at 7 a.m., Monday, Aug. 25.
Much like a new homeowner waiting to move into a new home, city staff have been packing for weeks while the work is finished at the new city hall. Part of that includes paring down the amount of paper — city records — that will be moved.
About a year ago, city staff started the process of scanning documents. It has proven to be a big task, human resources director Brenda Wendlandt said. In the long run, it will not only reduce the amount of paper on file, it will also make those documents more readily accessible to the public. All documents are being stored electronically, which means that sometime in 2009, residents will be able to access city records by simply visiting the city’s web site.
The land the new city hall is located on was owned by the Farmington Housing and Redevelopment Authority (now the Economic Development Authority). For more than a decade, the property sat vacant while proposals came and went.
But in 2002, when Farmington was experiencing a boom in residential growth, more employees were hired to meet the needs of Farmington’s residents. The only problem was, the current city hall was too small — even after a renovation in the mid-1990s. It was not long before he police department and municipal services department moved to the Law Enforcement Center and Central Maintenance Facility, respectively, and space was still tight. A city hall task force suggested moving city hall to the vacant land on Third and Spruce streets.
A couple of years later, the Farmington City Council began to look in earnest at city hall’s needs. There was discussion of expanding the current facility, but review of the building suggested it would be a costly, temporary fix. Council members then looked at the Third and Spruce site, and saw good possibilities.
City administrator Peter Herlofsky believes the best thing about the new site is the fact city hall remains downtown.
“This new city hall will be a fantastic addition to the downtown skyline,” he said. “City hall will help continue to keep downtown as viable as possible... I think it’s a nice location.”
Bigger and better
There are a lot of advantages to this new building — not least of which is the room for future growth. The new city hall is 42,000-square-feet, compared to the 12,628 of the current facility. That means there is room to accommodate a staffing level of 72 employees, the number the city expects to have on staff in 2030.
There are a lot of conference rooms and a few open desks now, but that was a planned measure so when the time comes, more personnel can be added without having to add on to the building.
The size of council chambers has been doubled, which means there will be more room for seating — 60 on a regular basis, with room for additional chairs to be brought in for meetings with a larger attendance. A window separates the council chambers from the lobby, allowing for overflow seating. Folks in the hallway would be able to keep tabs on conversation by watching monitors in the lobby.
The building also has earth-friendly amenities. Chris Ziemer of Wold Architects said natural lighting was an important feature added to the building. Many large windows help to give the building a spacious feel, while saving on electricity.
The furniture company, Allsteel, has been recognized for its efforts to reduce environmental impact. For instance, the paint used on parts of the furniture has been “recaptured,” meaning older paint has been reblended and recycled for use. The panel fabric used on the building’s dividers is made, in part, from corn starch.
“They’re very aware of their environmental responsibility,” Wendlandt said. “I think that’s just kind of a cool thing.”
Like almost every move, there are a few glitches to work out. A few phone numbers might change, and it will take a few days before things are all unpacked. But the plan now is to have the building open to the public next week. An open house is tentatively planned for Tuesday, Sept. 2.