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Providence City Council considers larger city office building

November 15th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Dani Hayes

PROVIDENCE – The City Council had an open discussion regarding possibly expanding the  30-year-old city building Tuesday night. Mayor Ron Liechty also suggested the option of building a new office building in a different location.

Contrasting opinions were shared during the discussion including if there was an actual need for expansion.

“Depends on the growth,” Liechty said. “If we grow, we are in trouble. I know from this building we have offices upstairs and downstairs. It causes problems. The new design has everyone working on the same level. I can tell you that the staff would love a new building.”

Staff agreed on a number of reasons.

“We thought that as long as we are doing this we should make extra space if we grow,” said Skarlet Bankhead, city administrator. She is for the construction of a new building. “The access into the basement of this building, it works but it could be improved. We need better storage. Sometimes council meetings, court meetings can get cramped in this room. The way the building is laid out, there are two people up here in the top level and a pocket of desks downstairs. Having the employees in those little clumps – it’s difficult to cover the front desk so that the front door is covered and the phone is answer.”

Liechty said an expansion would cost no more that $500,000 and would not cause a tax increase.

“We have the land,” said Councilman Dale Astle, who is in favor of an expansion. “It’s inexpensive right now and everyone is cramped.”

Others think it is more practical to build a new building.

“I don’t think we should expand this building,” said Councilman Ralph Call. “That’s a lot of money to put into an old building. I would like us to find a piece of ground that is appropriate for the city. I would like to see it on Center and Main. It ought to be one story, with more parking.”

The council wanted to make it clear that either way, the change would not increase taxes.

“This plan has not remotely called for a tax increase,” Bankhead said.

Councilman Don Calderwood said the city’s needs should be studied before anything is decided. “I don’t think there’s any urgency,” he said.

Councilman Bill Bagley shares Calderwood’s opinion.

“We ought to decide on our needs three, four, five years down the road and then figure out what facility we need and then figure out how to get that,” Bagley said.

Liechty said that if they decide to build a new building, it would cost over $1 million.

“I think from a financial perspective, yes we can do it,” Astle said, “but we need to ask if we need it. If we need it in two or three years we need to make preparations today.”

This is the first discussion the council has had regarding the subject. Nothing was decided.


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