On Dec. 18, Florence City Council approved a remodel to Florence City Hall, 250 Highway 101, totaling $2,992,900. Construction will begin in mid-January and take 11 months to complete.
During construction, Florence Justice Center, 900 Greenwood St., will house 11 city employees, including those working in the city manager’s office, human resources, information technology and finance. The new Public Works Facility, 2675 Kingwood St., will house customer service and the planning, building and code enforcement departments, as well as the Public Works staff. Staff will transition into the new sites beginning Jan. 8.
City council members awarded the project bid to Par-Tech Construction, out of Oregon City, Ore., which submitted the lowest bid. The project includes a ground floor renovation, a basement remodel, a new roof, improvements to the current east side of the building and the construction of a new council chamber to the west. The project will also help visitors navigate City Hall, with a clearly marked public entrance.
City of Florence began exploring the necessity of a new city hall in 2015, when city staff worked with hsr/Waterleaf to conduct a needs assessment for both current needs and a 20-year projection.
The current City Hall is 50 years old, and was completed in 1967. Over the years, it has housed city services and the Siuslaw Public Library.
“In the time since, we’ve had very little modernization except the bare necessities,” said Florence Project Manager Megan Messmer.
The assessment made clear that the existing floor plan is inefficient and needs be reconfigured to accommodate city staff.
“Per that assessment, the recommendation was to remodel the current structure, rather than build new somewhere else,” Messmer said. “It was their conclusion that the current site of City Hall has sufficient size and could meet the estimated staffing and space requirements for a population increase of double or more our current size, if remodeled and with an addition added to the west.”
According to the staff report, the cost per square foot for the remodel project is $260 for the remodel of 9,100 square feet of the existing building and a 2,400-square-foot expansion, totaling 11,500 square feet. The total project should cost less than half of what it would cost to build a new city hall, which would require additional staff time, site analysis, a possible bond measure and take up to 18 months to construct.
“The total project cost of $2,992,900 can be supported by our current resources with a 20-year debt service of $216,000 annually,” Messmer said. She added this would be financially feasible in the city’s long-range financial plan.
During the meeting, the city council heard reports from Messmer, City Finance Director Andy Parks and architect Joe Slack with HGE Inc.
The presentations included project alternatives and cost savings options.
City Manager Erin Reynolds said, “There are a few different ways to slice this tonight.”
Councilors had to choose to approve the project and, from there, which level of investment beyond the base level of construction.
Councilor Ron Preisler said, “I was looking at project costs that went up from $1.9 to $2.8 million. That’s a very significant increase. … I don’t want to be a ‘penny wise and a dollar foolish,’ as the saying goes. We’re talking about a lot of money in cost increases.”
Councilor Joshua Greene, who attended the meeting via telephone link, responded, saying, “I do think that was a substantial increase in construction cost, but that was an economic change, and we don’t have control of that.”
Reynolds said construction costs continue to go up, and that putting off one aspect of the project, such as the basement remodel, could cost the city much more in the future.
“We are seeing this as true, and in architectural evaluations done for the school district most recently - they are seeing construction costs escalate like they haven’t seen in the past,” she said.
Reasonable increases in construction costs would be 3 percent a year, Reynolds said, but in the recent year, those costs have jumped 20 percent.
Port of Siuslaw Commissioner Nancy Rickard regularly attends Florence City Council meetings. She talked about the Siuslaw School District’s planning process for necessary maintenance and improvements for the school building.
“It’s costing us so much more, just from not getting the bond. And the need there is huge,” she said. “I hate to see a delay in the things that we need, because it’s going to cost more and more. If there is any way at all to find the dollars, for both projects, the city and the school, then I think we need to do it.”
This was supported during the public comments, when contractor Dan Lofy, with Lofy Construction, advised going with a metal roof, as the longevity of the roofing would clear the possible savings of switching to composite shingles.
Mayor Joe Henry said, “I guess we just need to decide. Are we going to nickel-and-dime this to death, or do we want to do it now and avoid that additional cost in the future? That’s a council decision.”
Councilor Susy Lacer said, “I’m looking at our goals up there, and right below City of Florence, it says, ‘Oregon’s Premier Coastal Community.’ So yes, this project is coming in over what the budget estimates were when it was originally looked at two years ago. Yes, everyone knows construction costs are increasing. Yes, it’s a lot of money. Yes, we the council are charged with being fiscally responsible with our taxpayers’ money. I’m in favor of doing the project as recommended, because we are trying to be, and our adopted goal is, to be a premier coastal community. We have a huge ReVision Project coming up. This remodel of City Hall is part of that to set a good example for the development of our fair city. I think it would be most cost effective to just do it now.”
The city council discussed the design alternatives before ultimately going with the design as presented.
“My personal opinion would be to move forward with it, and we will have a beautiful City Hall we can all be very proud of,” Lacer said.
The council voted 4 to 1 to approve the $2.9 million, with Preisler opposed.
“At the end of the day, it just makes sense to do it now,” Henry said.
Messmer submitted a release affirming that the remodel will tie into the ReVision Florence project and to set an example for redevelopment in the area.
For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us/citymanager/city-hall-remodel-expansion.
Henry ended the meeting by saying, “This is the time of year for reflection and to say thanks for all the things in our personal lives, especially the way city council and staff work together. As a team, we have all these things in motion that will make us the premier Oregon coastal community - if we’re not already. We’ve gotten a lot of recognition in the last couple of years, and I think we have to be thankful for that.”