HJ/EDJuly 24, 2006

Winsted seeks input on city hall, lakefront projects

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

What course should the City of Winsted take?

City Administrator Brent Mareck said the city is looking for community input to make this decision.

Mareck made a presentation titled “Planning your History,” Thursday at the Blue Note.

He outlined the history and some options for the future of city hall.

Mareck said in 1892, Felton Vollmer, the city’s first mayor, recorded a village council resolution to build a village hall.

Today, Winsted residents must deal with the same issues the town founders did nearly 115 ago, he said.

In 1990, a referendum that would have dedicated $750,000 toward renovating the existing city hall or building a new city hall failed.

The last day of business in the original city hall was Nov. 4, 1997.

The city hall has rented space for nearly nine years, and currently pays $2,300 per month in rent.

Mareck said the city will have paid a total of $217,800 in rent from 1997 through the expiration of the current lease in November.

He stated that based on existing lease rates and average increases, the city would pay an estimated $454,596 over the next 10 years.

These factors led the city to begin looking at the possibility of building a new city hall in 2004.

The process began with a design team visit, followed by adoption of an action plan and formation of a city center focus group.

The group determined that a new city center should be constructed on the site of the existing public works building.

The group also determined that a landscaped promenade should be constructed from the proposed city center to Mill Reserve Park, and that a new public works building should be built at a different location.

Starting in the fall of 2005, a city center and lakefront promenade design committee met to consider space requirements and floor plans for city administration, the police department, and community rooms.

The committee also considered design and building materials for the city center and the lakefront promenade.

“The lake is one of the top amenities in the community,” Mareck said, noting that the value the community places on the lake was considered during the design process.

Mareck said that residents will be able to see the lake any time they enter the building.

The proposed city center would include a service counter, work rooms, administrative and police department offices, conference and interview rooms, and a secure evidence room.

Also included is a community room that would have seating for 160 people. The room could be divided in half to accommodate smaller groups. No decision has been made yet as to whether the room would be available for rent, Mareck said, noting that the city does not want to compete with existing businesses.

“The city did a land swap with Millerbernd Manufacturing to acquire a site for the new public works building,” Mareck said.

The site is adjacent to the fire hall, and would be accessed through the fire department parking lot.

What are the options?

Mareck presented three possible options for the community to consider.

The first option would be for the city hall, public works, and the lakefront to remain in their existing condition.

The city could either continue to save for future city hall construction, or determine that existing facilities are adequate, and either cut money from the bond debt from the budget or dedicate it to other projects.

The second option would be to construct the new public works facility in the fall of 2006, and the city center in the spring of 2007.

The projects would be funded by a capital improvement bond and a water and sewer revenue bond.

These bonds could be approved by the city council, or by referendum. If approved by referendum, costs would be assigned by market value, rather than by tax capacity value, meaning that a business property valued at $150,000 would pay the same as a residence with the same market value.

For a property with a taxable market value of $150,000, the average additional levy would be $3.45 per month, or $41.45 annually.

The third option would be to construct the public works facility in the fall of 2006, and the city center and lakefront promenade in the spring of 2007.

The city would use capital improvement bonds to construct the public works facility, and general obligation bonds to construct the city center and lakefront promenade.

The city would seek special legislation that would enable it to use general obligation bonds.

If 10 percent (about 130) of the estimated 1,300 registered voters in the city signed a petition requesting a referendum, the question would be decided by referendum.

On a property with a taxable market value of $150,000, this would require an additional levy of $6.88 per month, or $82.62 annually.

Cost projections

Mareck provided a long-term cost comparison for building a new city hall, public works facility, and lakefront promenade, versus continuing to rent space.

The figures show that over a 50-year period, the city would spend a total of $13,503,600 in rent, compared to $5,070,600 for building a new city center, promenade, and public works building.

Want to know more?

Mareck said that the city will use a variety of methods to provide information to residents to help them make informed decisions about the course the city should take.

Mareck will be available by appointment to make presentations of the plan to community groups. Appointments can be scheduled by contacting Mareck at city hall.

A series of workshops will be presented over a period of weeks, both during the day and in the evening, to accommodate different schedules.

Mareck’s presentation will also be available on the local access channel.

The city will send a newsletter explaining the issue to city residents.

A public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 12, after which the council will set the initial course of action.

Mareck said that the city is trying to do whatever it can to involve the community in determining which path to take.

“This isn’t a city project, this is a community project,” he said.

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