Rock Hall – About 75 people attended the first contact session for a two-part discussion on the future of City Hall here.
The majority of these people appeared in person at the Rock Hall Volunteer Fire Company, although City Manager Bob Resele, who estimated the number of attendees, said some were watching the broadcast online.
The council’s four members, Mayor Don Jacobs and Rissell, attended on Sunday. Four of the five members of the Building Advisory Committee also attended the meeting.
The BAC was established in July 2021 and tasked by the mayor and council with securing estimates and obtaining information regarding the condition of the building and the options available to the city to restore it, build a new structure on a different site, or demolish the existing structure and build new on the existing site.
On Sunday, before the presentation, Jacobs said the BAC provided the mayor and council with its final numbers and recommendations in March.
Councilman James Cook gave the presentation, which lasted just under an hour. The remainder of the approximately two-hour meeting allowed attendees to ask questions and give their initial thoughts on the information provided.
The town hall, located at 5585 S. Main St., is closed. , in front of the public in 2020 due to COVID-19-related shutdowns across the state. The building was never reopened due to structural and environmental issues, including mold, asbestos, and termite damage.
In recent years, the building has housed not only the city administration and hearing room, but also the Rock Hall Police Department, the Rock Hall branch of the Kent County Public Library and the City Museum. All of these services, except for the museum, have since moved.
“We started this process thinking it was the ceiling, and then escalated to this very big problem, and that’s where we come to you for some input,” Cook said on Sunday.
Cook outlined seven potential town hall options, including the pros and cons and cost estimates compiled by BAC.
Depending on the funding source, BAC cost estimates may need to increase by 20-30% due to prevailing wage requirements and other laws, Cook said. BAC estimates do not take into account these increases in funding sources.
“If we get federal or state funding for a project, that could lead to some other requirements, like the Davis-Bacon Act, some of the prevailing wage laws, as well as U.S. Iron and Steel Code. So those costs can be higher depending on the source of the money,” Cook said.
The first option, the renovation of the existing 18,400 square foot building, is estimated to cost $5 million.
The second option, demolishing the existing building and rebuilding another 18,400 square feet, estimated to cost $7.7 million.
The third option, phased partial renovations to the existing building, will cost $1.7 million for the first phase — which Cook said will include the administrative portion of the main building — and is currently estimated at $5 million for a total phased renovation.
The fourth option, the construction of a new town hall and police buildings totaling 3,565 square feet in Civic Center, has four cost estimating options. Estimated cost A, which represents a new structure built and the sale or donation of the existing building, is estimated to cost $2.9 million. Estimated cost B, which is a new block-built structure and demolished of the existing building, is estimated to cost $3.4 million. Estimated cost C, which represents the building structure of a new plant and the sale or donation of the existing building, is estimated to cost $1.5 million. The estimated cost D, which represents the new structure to build the plant and demolish the existing building, is $2.1 million.
The fifth option, the construction of the new town hall and police buildings on the existing Main Street site, has two options for cost estimation. Estimated cost A, based on a new stick-built structure and demolishing the existing building, is estimated to cost $3.4 million. Estimated cost B, based on a new factory-built chassis, is estimated to cost $2.1 million.
The sixth option includes three cost estimates for options that the Buildings Advisory Committee has not fully explored. The first estimated cost, purchase of the City Administration Building currently rented, has a confirmed price of $325,000. Cost estimate B, Old Fire Station Purchase, has a purchase estimate of $70,000 to $1 million, plus any repairs that need to be made. Cost Estimate C, another space in existence yet to be determined, has a purchase estimate of $300,000 to $500,000 plus any repairs and upgrades.
The seventh option includes two cost estimates for options that have not been fully explored. Cost Estimate A, FEMA Trailers/Purchase Works, has a purchase estimate of $85,000 plus an additional $15,000 to set up. Cost estimate B, Continuing to Rent/Lease Existing Space, has an annual cost estimate of $14,400.
Cook also outlined the current funding sources for the project.
As of Sunday, $900,000 has already been allocated to the city for the construction project between two items of capital and insurance proceeds.
The city has also applied for $7.5 million in federal appropriations to the USDA.
“Hopefully we’ll hear back by June,” Cook said of that fed money.
Brochures have also been made available regarding the city’s long-term debt, illustrating the city’s current and future projects, mostly related to infrastructure.
“There are a lot of infrastructure (and) utilities projects going on there, and we have to save money for that as well,” Cook said. “It’s not just what we’re doing with the building, it’s what we’re going to do with the building given all the other things we’re up against.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, several attendees inquired about the cost of demolishing the Town Hall wings and renovating only the original section, which was once the elementary school.
Another frequent comment was asking the city not to just donate or sell the building for $1, but instead try to make some money from it.
Councilwoman, Eleanor Collier, said the idea of selling the building for a dollar the cost of doing something with the building would be high for the buyer.
“It’s a trade-off,” she said.
“I would strongly encourage us not to donate or sell it for a dollar to a non-profit organization, I would rather see it sell to someone who develops it and generates income for our community with tax dollars,” said resident Laurie Walters. Her comment was met with applause from the audience.
Vic Costa, a member of the Building Advisory Committee, asked that the city compile an estimate of how it would increase taxes based on each building option.
“What is it like, if we don’t get federal funding, obviously we won’t get state funding for this step, what would it look like if we had to put this on the taxpayer’s shoulders? For the different options, what are we looking at?” he asked.
Cook said the potential debt burden compared to each option will be available for the next meeting.
Several commentators thanked the BAC, the mayor, the council, and the cook for all their work in getting the city to the point where the show was possible.
The second part of the building discussion will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 24, in the firehouse. This part is meant to be a question-and-answer session where the community can ask questions to the mayor and council.
Transcripts of the presentation can be obtained at the Temporary City Hall, located at 21447 Rock Hall Ave. The presentation is also available on the city’s website.