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City Hall today and in the future

With construction bids approved for $6.13 million in renovations, things will start to change for Marshall’s city hall building over the next year

MARSHALL — It’s been a long road to get to this point. But even with construction bids approved, it will still take over a year to renovate Marshall’s 55-year-old Municipal Building.

Last week, Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson outlined some of the next steps in the process, from moving city offices to making major changes to the layout of the building. Hanson said city offices will be moving into temporary locations at Southwest Minnesota State University in about three weeks. Construction at city hall on Main Street will likely start this spring, after hazardous materials are removed from the building, she said. Completion of the renovations is anticipated in summer 2021.

The current city hall building was constructed in 1964. Over the past decade, the city has debated how to address problems ranging from the building’s failing boiler to leaks and a lack of handicapped accessibility.

On Nov. 12, the Marshall City Council voted 5-2 to approve a $4.89 million base bid and five alternates from Brennan Companies, of Mankato. Including the base bid, alternates, non-construction related costs and contingency funds, the estimated construction cost would be about $6.139 million.

The city will issue bonds not to exceed $6.5 million for the project, to avoid dropping city reserves too low, Hanson said. Bond payments will be made with existing city revenue and revenue from the municipal liquor store, she said.

Other costs not included in the construction bid would include a $138,000 lease with SMSU for temporary offices at the university campus; and $67,000 to remove hazardous materials from the city hall building. They would also include items like landscaping, furnishings and equipment, and security controls, according to project architects Engan Associates.

Hanson said some costs, like the cost of removing asbestos from the city hall building, are ones the city would have had to deal with no matter what.

The city relied on architects for advice on building new versus renovating, and when comparing possible city hall locations, Hanson said.

Hanson said city staff have already started sorting and cleaning out office materials in preparation for the move to either storage or temporary offices at SMSU. The moving work will mostly be done after Dec. 20, during the university’s winter break.

“We don’t want to be disruptive to the professors or students,” she said. “We are hoping our IT systems will be functional by the 30th,” and have the city offices functional by Jan. 2, she said.

Removal of asbestos from the building will start on Jan. 13, and will last through Feb. 21, Hanson said. Construction is anticipated to start soon after. One of the first major steps in the renovations will be to remove and re-pour the concrete slab that makes up the building’s main floor, she said. The change will bring the main floor down to street level, and the construction will also bring the building out further toward the sidewalk. Currently, city hall’s main lobby can only be reached by stairs or a ramp out front.

Hanson said the way city offices are laid out will be changed in the renovations. Meeting chambers for the city council will be built where the old city police and fire garage used to be. The city offices the public visits most, like Community Services and the building department, will be moved down to the main floor. All the offices will also be about the same size, and none will have windows, Hanson said. Shared spaces like meeting rooms will have windows instead.

The planned renovations will also change the exterior look of the city hall building. Hanson said the design has features like keystones similar to Marshall’s city hall building before 1964.

Questions about a lack of parking came up during council discussion of the renovations. While there weren’t currently plans to build more parking for city hall, Hanson said if there are options for additional parking, the city will pursue it.

The proposal to renovate the city hall building had received some questions and criticism, as well as support. At the Nov. 12 city council meeting where the construction bid was approved, council members Russ Labat and Glenn Bayerkohler voted against awarding the bid.

Labat said this week that his vote was based on a question he had about the renovations.

“I wanted to know how much it would cost to build new,” instead of renovating, he said. “Unfortunately, I never did get an answer.”

At the same time, Labat said he respected the process the decision went through. Evaluating whether to renovate the existing building or do something different wasn’t easy, he said.

At the Nov. 12 meeting, Bayerkohler expressed concerns about the renovation proposal, and whether there were other possibilities that wouldn’t carry a $6 million-plus cost to taxpayers. Bayerkohler said this week that, while he would be willing to meet with Marshall residents to explain the reasons for his “no” vote, he didn’t think it would be appropriate to make a public statement after the council had made its decision on the project.

The proposal to renovate the city hall building had also received some mixed reactions from Marshall community members. In September, when the city council was considering a maximum of up to $8 million in bonding for the renovation project, James Carr told council members there needed to be “a reality check” on how the project would affect taxpayers. The council ended up voting to issue bonds not to exceed $6.5 million.

Al Greig, one of the Marshall community members who served on the building committee that recommended city hall be renovated, said part of the reason for that recommendation was to help maintain Marshall’s downtown and avoid leaving a vacant building.

“It’s really important to sustain good business relationships” downtown, Greig said. The current building, with its main floor above street level, would also be hard to convert into commercial space if the city left, he said.

Greig said initially, when it looked like the project could have a possible $8 million cost, “I had reservations that was too much.” However, the bids that actually came in were lower.

Scott Williams, another community member who served on the building committee, said he thought the planned renovations are more expensive than the committee had intended.

“They took our guidance and blew it completely out of proportion, while remaining on Main Street,” Williams said. Williams said the community needed to support Main Street, but he thought the city could have renovated the municipal building without demolishing and reconstructing a concrete floor.

Williams is president of Bisbee Plumbing and Heating, one of the subcontractors in a construction bid for city hall submitted by Bladholm Construction. Bladholm’s base bid was $5.375 million. The third bid for renovations, from Comstock Construction of Fergus Falls, came in at $5.258 million.

The Brennan Companies construction bid didn’t name any local subcontractors. Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said the prime contractors were required to list their main subcontractors, but that didn’t prevent them from using other local contractors. Hanson said the city will also be working with local contractors and suppliers where it can. For example, she said, the city plans to use local moving and storage companies for the move to temporary offices, as well as local IT and security companies.

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