Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 13, 2003

Howard Lake to convert the old bank building

By Lynda Jensen

Plans to convert the old bank building into the new city offices highlighted the Howard Lake Council meeting Tuesday.

Basic proposed changes include the creation of new council chambers, expanded police department offices, and room for the public access department as well as administrative offices, at a cost of $200,000, architect Gary Hay of Hay Dobbs told the council.

The basic remodeling omits an elevator option worth $110,00. Without the elevator, the basement is unusable for public gatherings because it does not meet federal accessibility requirements, Hay said.

A major cost to the city is the fact that the existing building has only one restroom on the first floor, Hay said.

Other options include an after-hours police office walk-up, and evidence room.

The most expensive option amounts to more than $500,000, and includes an elevator and a 1,800-square foot garage that can eventually be converted into office space, should the city grow. The garage is planned to be where the old bank drive up used to be.

The plans sparked the imagination of many council members, who envisioned many different uses.

"We've had a lot of dreams (over the years) that never happened," commented Council Member Shelly Reddemann reflectively.

Council Member Don Danford expressed the desire to make a teen center in the basement.

It was also noted that the library needs more room.

It was suggested installing the elevator, but waiting on the basement ideas.

Danford said that if the city doesn't install the elevator now, it never would.

Hay advised against installing an elevator that wouldn't be used, paying for maintenance.

Council Member Tom Kutz noted that bond interest payments are low now, and he would prefer to do the entire project in one shot.

However, City Administrator Kelly Bahn cautioned the council on making "wonderful plans," but questioned the lack of a tax base to fund the ideas.

"Everybody has space," she noted, saying the senior citizens and other groups already had rooms to meet.

Danford pointed out the growth of residential homes to the tax base.

"But they're not there yet," Bahn objected. "We're not as (financially) healthy as one or two years ago."

The council decided to solicit public input during an open house from 7 to 9 p.m. at the new city office building Tuesday, Oct. 28.

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