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Workers squeezed into old City Hall

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council seem to be in a mood to build.

They are considering a plan to build a new $2.4 million City Hall in five years. In the meantime, they approved a $33,000 roof repair for the current City Hall building and are mulling the possibility of a $320,000 remodeling job in the interior.

Also, council members are looking into the possibility of building an animal shelter to replace the ramshackle facility on the Navy Seaplane Base.

At a workshop Tuesday, Ron Peterson, the city’s $11,000 space needs consultant, offered council members two different solutions for resolving the overcrowding in City Hall and the inadequacies of the building. He said a new City Hall will be needed at some point, but the council will have to decide if construction should be put off for five or ten years.

“The question is,” he said, “how do we figure out if we should continue investing in the building or move on to another building?”

The main problem with the 1950s building is that there’s not enough space for the current 38 employees, while City Hall staffing levels are estimated to grow to 50 folks in the next 10 years. That doesn’t even take into account summer interns or other temporary workers.

In the legal department, for example, City Attorney Phil Bleyhl may have to give up his office so that two employees can be crammed into the space like sardines with law degrees. City Hall has no room for the youth services coordinator. The office space outside the mayor’s office was recently remodeled to make room for a new employee, an assistant for the city administrator.

Peterson also said the “antiquated” building’s heating and ventilation system doesn’t work well and the electrical system needs to be upgraded. There’s no security and no elevator.

And the roof leaks. City staff has been working to fix the problem for years — patching it four times in the last year — but the leaks persist.

City Council accepted a $33,000 bid Tuesday from Scholten Roofing to put a new roof on.

Under Peterson’s five-year plan, City Hall would be remodeled to make room for up to 10 additional employees. But that would require turning the council chambers into offices and moving the council meetings out to the city’s public works building.

The building’s HVAC system would get a $50,000 fix, record storage would be moved and $40,000 in security measures would be built in.

“The five-year plan doesn’t do much,” Peterson said. “It just kind of holds the building together and holds the growth.”

Peterson’s 10-year plan, however, would require a much more expensive and expansive remodeling job. He estimates it would cost $1.4 million to remodel the facility so more than 50 employees would fit. He estimates that the HVAC system would need a $154,000 upgrade.

Plus, Peterson said City Hall would have to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements if there’s a major remodeling. That would mean putting in an elevator, which would cost about $75,000.

While the life of City Hall can be extended, Peterson said a new building will eventually be needed. He estimated that a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building would cost about $4.2 million, plus the price of three acres of land.

City Administrator Thom Myers said the old city shop, at the top of the hill on City Beach Street, might be a good site for the new City Hall. It’s probably not big enough, so the city would have to buy some of the surrounding land.

Council members didn’t make any final decisions Tuesday, but they all seemed inclined toward the five-year option. (Councilman Eric Gerber and Councilwoman Sheilah Crider were absent.) In addition, they agreed that they wanted more information.

Councilman Richard Davis asked about long-term strategies. He wanted to know how a new building would be funded and what properties might be available. Councilman Paul Brewer asked whether a new building should also contain the police station and municipal court.

Myers said he and Peterson would work to get these issues clarified and return to council, likely at the Oct. 18 meeting.

At the same meeting, the council also discussed Councilwoman Sue Karahalios’ proposal to build a city animal shelter at the end of Technical Drive, which is off Goldie Road. The city owns 2.2 acres that is currently being used as an off-leash dog park.

“Now is the time to look into what we can do,” Karahalios said.

The matter was referred to the council’s ad hoc committee on animal control for further discussion.

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