City hall issues give building group plenty to think about

MARSHALL – Discussion on the future of Marshall’s city hall building continued Friday morning, though definite plans have yet to take shape. Members of a building task force discussed a 2006 study of the Marshall municipal building, as well as some rough updated cost estimates for renovating or rebuilding city hall.

Architect Ron Halgerson was present at the meeting to go over the building study, which was conducted by Group II Architects. The study included an analysis of space usage and needs in the municipal building, an evaluation of the building’s condition and some basic cost estimates to renovate it.

Halgerson said one of the most “intense” areas of study in the report was the floor of the former city garage. The concrete and rebar in the floor have deteriorated after exposure to moisture and salt from city vehicles, leading to chunks of concrete falling into basement-level rooms beneath the floor. Halgerson said one potential solution would be to install steel support beams and pour a new floor in the garage area. Other areas of concern included the municipal building’s windows and window frames, boilers and ventilation systems and issues like building security and access for people with disabilities.

Group leader John DeCramer asked city staff members what they would like to see if the municipal building was renovated to have a more open layout. Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said it would be ideal to have an open floor plan instead of compartmentalized offices, to help with cross-training staff. Staff said it would also be good to have a clear lobby area for members of the public and to place busy offices like Community Services in more accessible parts of the building.

Discussion also turned to cost considerations for renovating the municipal building, or constructing a new building. The 2006 study had estimated a likely cost of about $1.8 million to renovate the municipal building, which would break down to about $77 per square foot. The study said building a new facility would probably cost between $2.6 million and $2.7 million.

Martig presented the group with updated cost estimates calculated by Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson. The estimates included values from the 2006 study, updated at an increase of 3 percent a year. Olson’s estimates came out to about $2.1 million to renovate, which would break down to a cost of about $97 per square foot, or $3.1 million to $3.3 million to build new.

However, Halgerson and task force members stressed that the estimates did not factor in costs to relocate city departments while renovation was going on, or the costs of land acquisition and preparation for a new municipal building.

“There’s no question (renovation) would disrupt operations,” Halgerson said. The 2006 building study estimated city staff would be out of the building for up to 10 months.

If the city decides to construct a new municipal building, it will also be left with the question of what to do with the old building. Group members noted that any potential buyers would face the same renovation issues the city has now, and the vacant hotel building next door might not make the property any more attractive.

Group member Glenn Bayerkohler said it was also worth considering the value of having city hall in Marshall’s downtown and the message it might send if a new building was constructed elsewhere.

The task force’s discussion of space planning and building issues is planned to continue next week.