(Posted Oct. 15, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The city of London is nearly ready to start the first phase of its move into the new city hall building at 20 S. Walnut St.
Crews have been renovating the first floor of the former primary school building that sits at the corner of South Walnut and East High Street to allow the city to consolidate all but the police, fire and street departments under one roof.
“We look to move the offices in three phases,” said Mayor Patrick Closser. “We hope to get my office and the parks and recreation department in there by the end of the month.”
Those two departments will test how the building functions, making sure all systems are working before more departments make the move.
The second phase will see the law office, tax department, and building and zoning department move into the building, followed in the third phase by auditor’s office and board of public utilities.
Closser said he does not have a firm timeline for the second and third phases but does plan to hold a public open house once all departments are settled. In the meantime, the public is invited to attend the next city properties meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the building to see the progress.
The city had hoped to move into the new building earlier this year but ran into delays with the discovery of asbestos in and under the building.
“That kind of held us up a little bit. We wanted to make sure it was safe for everyone–the citizens and our employees–and didn’t want to rush it,” Closser said.
Even with the asbestos abatement, the project as originally planned has stayed under bid. City council approved $1.64 million for the project. The bid came in under $1.6 million. The city is financing the project through J.P. Morgan Chase with an annual payment of $107,876.
The city has since added some improvement projects outside the original bid package, including installation of Wi-Fi and a parking lot for employees at 20 S. Walnut. The parking lot likely will be located behind Bicentennial Park next to Dr. Mark Lima’s dentist office. The estimated cost for the additional projects at 20 S. Walnut St. is $300,000. Closser said the city will use money from its general fund and 2019 capital funds to cover the work done outside the original bid package.
The city decided to bring its departments under one roof for two main reasons, Closser said. One, the buildings the departments now occupy are aging and with that comes the need for repairs. The Walnut Street property, built in the 1960s, is block construction.
“This building will last forever. It has sturdy bones…I feel this will be city hall for a very, very long time,” Closser said.
The second reason is convenience. Instead of traveling to several locations to take care of city-related business, citizens will be able to make one stop.
“If you have to pay taxes, pick up registration for volleyball and pay your water bill, for example, you can do that all in a couple of minutes at one place,” Closser said.
The city also will see efficiencies in utilities with one building to heat and cool instead of several. Supply purchases could be bought in bulk for all departments, instead of individually per department, Closser added.
The consolidation means the city will vacate three locations–6 E. Second St., 102 S. Main St., and 100 S. Main St. Closser said the city will put the properties up for sale through the government bidding process. The properties will go to the highest, best bidders, as approved by city council.
The police and fire departments will remain at their current locations. The street department recently moved to the former Ohio Department of Transportation garage at 1460 State Rte. 42. The fire department is expanding into the vacated street department space.
The Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center rents the second floor of the 20 S. Walnut St. building and will continue to do so when the first floor becomes city hall.