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City exploring costs of city hall transformation

With a pile of proposals on his desk and some very anxious residents across the street, Farmington city administrator Peter Herlofsky and his staff may have to do some creative budgeting in the next few weeks.

In the days and weeks to come, city staff has to figure out if it is financially feasible to turn the former city hall building on Oak and Fourth streets into the new home of the Rambling River Center. A preliminary estimate suggests the necessary renovations could cost around $500,000, but the numbers are still pretty loose.

Following the Nov. 3 city council meeting, at which council members voted 3-1 to make the old city hall the city's new senior center, Herlofsky sent out a request for proposals for a construction manager. By Tuesday, he had received a stack of RFPs, but had not had time to review them.

Herlofsky recommended going through a construction manager rather than a general contractor because the latter often has the same knowledge and skills, but does not have the affiliation with larger construction companies that would increase the amount charged for the same type of services.

"We're just looking to find out who in the neighborhood would be able to help us out with this type of a project," he said. "This way, local people will be able to bid on the project and we would have a construction manager on site at all times. For a smaller project, I think the best thing for us to do is to get a construction manager."

If the RFPs are favorable, the next step will be to figure out exactly what needs to be done, and how much it will cost. Herlofsky expects to work on the budget over the next few weeks.

Members are excited

Across the street at the current Rambling River Center, coordinator Missie Kohlbeck said members are ready to help in just about any way they can.

"Lots and lots of people are already stepping forward and wanting to help," she said. "People are coming in and offering help. It's really exciting for us."

On Tuesday, the Rambling River Center hosted a Thanksgiving holiday meal and program for members. The place was packed to overflowing, with 111 people registered for the lunch. It was a perfect example of why members are looking for a bigger facility, Kohlbeck said.

"It was packed. You can't even move, and it's hard to bring an entertainer in when you have something like that. They can't even see (the entertainer)," she said.

Besides the larger interior space available at the former city hall, many members look forward to the increased parking availability, particularly with the adjacent parking lot and spots directly in front of the building. There are a few less enthusiastic, though. A few members in their 90s may have trouble making the trek from their senior housing units one block to the new location, but Kohlbeck says that is something she and other volunteers can help with if and when the new location opens.

Not the first time

This is not the first time Farmington's seniors have expressed interest in helping their senior center. Back when the community's senior center was first discussed more than 25 years ago, the senior community raised $80,000 to buy the current senior center building from the Farmington Housing and Redevelopment Authority. In addition, they were able to get a grant to help pay the salary of the center's first coordinator, Cathy Dennison.

And though many of those members are long since gone, Kohlbeck says she would not be surprised it today's members rally around the center, as well. They are already doing fundraisers for necessities around the current site, so all that needs to be decided is whether the project is financially feasible for the city, and if so, how much the members want to raise.

"We're waiting to talk about what the costs are before we get into any fundraising. A pancake breakfast isn't going to do it," she said.

For the time being, the old city hall sits vacant, but for a few items left behind for storage. A DARTS bus is also kept in one of the garage stalls. Herlofsky said the city will keep the building heated, but just enough to prevent the pipes from freezing and causing any damage to the building.