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Smithfield City Council gets tour of unfinished new office building

February 25th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Safiyyah Ballard

SMITHFIELD–“The mayor and I wrestled, I won, so I got the bigger office,” City Manager Jim Gass joked during a tour of the new city office building.

Gass showed the City Council the new offices, including the new map room, jury room, attorney room, cemetery room and a community classroom. Gass said currently, a jail cell is being used to store city maps and attorneys have to borrow an office to meet with their clients.

Smithfield Justice Court Judge Terry Moore attended the tour and explained the features of the new courtroom podium, which will have a seat that raises and lowers. Moore says that currently he has to look up to defendants in court, as he is seated lower. “The new podium will allow me to be seated eye level, which will allow for much better dialogue with the defendants.”

Councilwoman Kris Monson expressed concern with the new professional layout of the courtroom, as it will be used for city council meetings as well. “I don’t want to feel too separated from the people,” Monson said.

Gass assured her the new layout would keep council close to Smithfield citizens and allow for more attendance. “There will also be a portable podium to help citizens better address council,” Gass added.

Gass said the building should be completed in April. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere when you come in, it’ll be really open and have lots of light.”

Mayor Darrell Simmons was impressed with how clean the work area was in spite of ongoing construction. “This building is going to be a very nice space and a great addition to the city,” Simmons said.

After the tour, the council met at the current city office. Glenn Jay Thornley, from Smithfield Blue Sox board of directors, suggested the council consider a Hall of Fame for Blue Sox. “The Carnegie Building would be ideal for the Hall of Fame,” Thornley said. He also inquired about a potential remodel of the concession stand.

Gass said Smithfield Recreation Center director Brett Daniels is exploring the cost of construction for a new concession stand with restrooms. Gass added that the project may be eligible as a RAPZ (Recreation, Arts, Parks and Zoos) tax project. “The RAPZ tax would fund part of the construction and the city would cover the rest. We won’t know if it’s eligible for that until May or June.”

Smithfield Irrigation Company (SIC) president Jeff Gittins addressed the council about a canal construction project near the armory that he did not know about. “I want to state emphatically that we are in support of the canal company, but this issue needs to be addressed to avoid potential flooding. It’s also a water rights issue,” Gittins said.

“The concrete wall spans most of the width of Summit Creek. We are all trying very hard to work together to solve the canal issue because it affects all of us. The same canal system has been in place for over 130 years, built by the pioneers, so we need to address the issue. It doesn’t affect just irrigation, it affects culinary water as well. There’s no room for people doing their own thing,” Gittins added.

Gittins said SIC has had Summit Creek water rights since 1860. “We have one working canal and a limited amount of water. Last year, we had more water, with this year’s snow pack, we will have less. We need everyone on the same page.”

Mayor Simmons admitted he was unaware of the project until earlier that day. “How did this happen and what are we going to do to remedy it?”

Gass said he too was unaware of the project until he saw it the other day and the canal company was unaware they did not have the correct permit. “From what I have been told, the wall they have built will have to come out. It’s not going to work.”

Simmons asked Gass to find out what happened and be ready to report back to council at the next meeting.

The council changed the date of a public hearing on the amendment to Title 2 from March 16 to March 9. Simmons said City Attorney Bruce Jorgensen needed to be in attendance to address the legality of the new ordinance. “The public can view the new ordinance online and pick up a hard copy that Dean Clegg has made available at the city office,” Simmons said.

Simmons said the ordinance was put out in July, and Councilman Mike Oliverson said the process started almost two years ago. “Hopefully, the public has been following the process as it has been made available for them to review. I think it’s ready to go,” Oliverson said.

The council discussed consideration of a $37,850 contract with Nexus for the design and management of the current city office. Gass said Nexus is currently working on the new city office building. “The remodel can be a little more complicated, you may run into issues with an older building. We need to ensure that we have someone that has experience and qualifications to do the job.”

Councilman William “Dee” Wood recommended the consideration of the contract on the basis of “what we’ve done with Nexus in the past.” A representative from Nexus was not in attendance to address questions from the council, so the council decided to wait until the next meeting to decide on the contract.

The council also discussed the canal upgrade project. “This project has been a vision for over 50 years. This is an opportunity to solve a problem. A lot of credit goes to Senator Bennett, he worked really hard on the application,” Gass said.

A $19 million grant application was approved for the project. Gass said he attended a meeting with JUB Engineers and representatives from the invested entities from Logan, Hyde Park and Smithfield. “Based on separable cost benefit, each city was given an amount to contribute. Since the project is in Logan, we don’t have a large financial commitment. Our responsibility would be $675,000, and Logan would pay $1.1 million.” Gass said that part of that financial responsibility is due to the city being a shareholder of the canal company.

Building inspector John Wells said the Division of Water Resources is trying to get a low interest loan to help pay for the project. “All the cities could come together and it could be one loan and we’d work together to pay it off. ”

Gass said the project has not been designed yet, but the cities hope to start construction by the fall of 2011.

NW

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