Elma City Hall remodel costs $250k

ELMA — Other than a new paint job a year or so ago, the outside of Elma City Hall looks much the same as it did when built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938. But a whole lot has changed on the inside.

A remodel that began around early spring of 2012 is progressing well and expected to be completed sometime late this fall, according to Public Works Director Jim Starks.

With a price tag of about $250,000, the project includes a new City Council chambers, the renovation of the north half of the building, as well as a switch of the municipal court clerk’s office and the Building Department and new carpeting throughout the entire building, as funding for that becomes available, Starks said.

The project is being funded by a combination of Real Estate Excise Funds, geared specifically for capital improvement projects, as well as the city’s water/sewer fund. Mayor Dave Osgood emphasized that nothing from the city’s general fund — used to pay for day-to-day operations — is being used for the renovation. And the city is only spending money geared specifically for capital improvements and construction that can’t be used to balance the city’s general fund. The city’s general fund has been experiencing flat revenue thus far with a budgeted amount of $20,000 left in reserves, although Clerk/Treasurer Diane Easton is hopeful that frugal spending practices could leave at least $200,000 by the end of the year.

The remodeled half of City Hall includes new restrooms that are compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a small conference room that seats about a dozen people and new council chambers/courtroom, in which the council began meeting in June, Starks said.

When the project is complete, that area will also have three new offices. Those, which will be where the former council chambers/courtroom were, are slated for the mayor, city clerk and public works director.

And where the old council chambers “platform” was, there will soon be a storage area for the city clerk’s files, “completely walled off with a secure door on it,” Starks noted.

Seating for the council members in their new chambers is on a platform that’s raised about 6 inches, so that during meetings “they can see whoever’s talking in the back of the room,” Starks said. The sound system in that room is still in the process of being transferred, he said. The mayor noted that acoustics are a lot better in the smaller room and residents can hear what’s being said easier.

A new heating and cooling HVAC system has also been installed, and all of the building’s “1930s windows have been replaced with double-paned windows,” Starks said.

The restrooms have “been an issue since the first ADA survey” was performed in about the early 1990s, Starks noted. There was no mandated timeline for updated bathrooms, though city officials have long wanted to see them become a reality. But “it’s always been a funding issue,” Starks said.

The Building Department has been moved from the southwest corner of the building to where the court clerk’s office was in the northeast corner, and the court clerk’s office is now where the Building Department was, Starks noted. The switch means the court clerk’s office is easier for members of the public coming into City Hall to locate, giving it a “little more public visibility,” he said.

Starks also noted that Mayor Osgood has been “really involved” with the remodel. “He’ll show up any time they can get a work crew.”

An inmate crew from the Cedar Creek Corrections Center at Littlerock has performed “a majority of the demolition and the framing and sheetrock work,” Starks noted.

The labor of a half dozen or so men from the corrections center has cost “probably about what you’d pay one person’s prevailing wage,” Starks said, adding that Osgood’s also “invested a lot of his time supervising, coordinating their activities.”