Allegan's city hall will be moving to the Allegan Professional Building. (File photo)

Allegan city hall is moving

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Allegan City Council members voted unanimously on Monday, June 11, to purchase the Allegan Professional Building at 231 Trowbridge St. for $275,000 for a new city hall.

Moving forward, an estimated timeline is to bid for the architect/engineer of the project next week and make a selection in July for a schematic design due by September. The construction plan development is to be completed by November for the construction bid process to begin in December.

Actual renovations would start January 2019 with construction completion estimated in May 2019.

In the public hearing, Peter Hanse was the only person who spoke.

He was against the project saying it was the most expensive proposal the city had studied over the years. “Are we really looking at what we need or what we want?” he asked. “We have eight full-time and two part-time employees at city hall and it’s going from a 4,000- to a 22,000-square-foot space—why such an increase when the population has been flat since 1950?”

Hanse also said the $5.6 -million bond proposal is an omnibus with everything getting thrown into it.

“The general fund is decreasing every year,” he said. “What will happen when we lose tax base and become insolvent?”

The city chose $1.7 million in renovations (including purchase price) at the new location over $1.1 million in renovations to the current city hall because it offered a better “bang for the buck” with renovation costs at $77 per square foot, compared to $247 per square feet at Locust Street.

“It benefits the community more and already comes with the amenities sought,” said Dye. “It’s accessible and has an economic advantage by removing 22,000 square feet of vacant office space downtown which is having an impact on real estate prices.

“By removing the supply it will make other vacant areas more desirable,” he said.

He also said the original city hall was long ago located on Trowbridge Street (next to the Regent Theatre) and its new location puts it across the street from the post office and courthouse and back into a civic district.

With the city planning to borrow $5.6 million, three bonds are being sought to pay for construction projects, which include streets, water and sewer and building projects.

In total, these projects will cost $5.06 million dollars, which is a conservative estimate; therefore the city is borrowing $5.6 million as a safety net.

Three separate bonds will be issued.  $1.5 million in Michigan Transportation Fund bonds will be paid back over the course of 15 years with an annual payment of $110,000. Building Authority Bonds will be paid back at $145,000 annually over 20 years and $2 million in General Obligation Limited Tax Capital Improvement  bonds for water and sewer will be paid back $137,000 annually for 20 years.

Finance director Tracy Stull pointed out the debt payments are paid through several funds, not just the general fund.

“Others have revenues that are increasing and have been a part of the capital improvement plan for years,” she said.

Stotmeister said a majority of debt payments from the general fund had recently been paid off (estimated between $200,000 and $300,000) and Dye said the debt payments will be 5 percent of revenues.

At Monday’s meeting, articles of incorporation were also approved to form an Allegan Building Authority to oversee the acquisition, furnishing, equipping, owning, improving, enlarging, operating, and maintaining the renovations to city hall, the Regent Theatre and Griswold Auditorium.

By creating the Building Authority the city can issue Building Authority Bonds for the planned improvements to the public buildings while freeing up the ability to issue Capital Improvement Bonds to finance the water and sewer improvements, which sell at a lower rate and will save approximately $95,000 to $105,000 over the course of the bonds. Three members to the Building Authority will be appointed at a later date.

City Council members were asked what they’d like to see in the design.

Council member Nancy Ingalsbee asked that the furniture not be replaced since it was relatively new. Mayor pro-tem Rachel McKenzie said the DPW had not had anything new in a long time and the furniture could be utilized there. McKenzie also asked that public restrooms be readily available, all entries be ADA accessible and the exterior be made to look a lot better than it does now, which received an “amen.”

Traci Perrigo asked to consider employee safety when designing the entryways. City manager Joel Dye said a security card entrance would be for employees and one for the public.

Patrick Morgan wanted the service elevator in the new building to be ADA accessible even though there is only a first floor and a basement.

Charles Tripp said he’d like to see a glass display case in the lobby of the new city hall highlighting some of the city’s history.

“I also assume the DDA will look at 15-minute parking spaces for people to pay their city water bill,” he said.

Mayor Stacy Stotmeister said she wanted it versatile enough to accommodate staffing changes for growing needs and asked if elections would be held in the new location.

Dye said the goal is for the building to be home for all city administration services including elections as well as council chambers and a storage facility for needs of the growing riverfront events.

Virginia Ransbottom can be contacted at vransbottom@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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