New City Hall is ready to‘meet’ the public


Oskaloosa City Hall

Photo by Rick Nichols
Everything is up to date in Oskaloosa! Well, almost. Aside from the absence of the letters that will say “Oskaloosa City Hall” above the main entrance and the lack of flags for the flagpole, the new City Hall is pretty much finished. Pictured here as he stands next to his patrol vehicle outside the one-story building is Chief of Police Paul Bolinger.


by Rick Nichols
At long last the City of Oskaloosa has a permanent home again, to the extent that anything in this world can ever be truly permanent.
A three-hour open house for the new City Hall at the northeast corner of Delaware and Washington streets is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. this Thursday and will be immediately followed by a meeting of the City Council, the first for newly-elected Councilman Ken Newell. What a way to begin a four-year term in office!
Members of the Jefferson County Area Chamber of Commerce are planning to converge on the one-story building at 212 Washington Street for a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for 4. Afterward, cookies and punch will be served to those who drop by to take a look — even a quick one — at a place that has essentially been more than nine long years  — count ‘em — in the making.
In February of 2006, the old City Hall directly north of the newspaper office was razed, forcing the utilities office and the office of the police department to be relocated, not to mention meetings of the City Council. Space in the Oskaloosa Township fire station at 508 Jefferson Street was available, so it was to there that the offices were moved and there they remained for the next four years.
In late 2009, the city purchased from Sam and Bonnie Harvey the empty building at 509 Delaware Street that had previously housed a hardware store, for the purpose of putting its offices there. A photograph in the Feb. 11, 2010, issue of the paper shows a council meeting being held there a week earlier, the governing body’s first at that location.
The city was hopeful the space would prove adequate to meet its needs and at one point went so far as to have plans drawn up for an extensive remodeling job. But concerns over the potential cost of the project, coupled with the addition of new faces with new ideas to the council following the 2011 election, led the city to eventually abandon the idea of using the building long-term and to look for a buyer. In addition, at that time the city was under a fair amount of pressure from state officials to find a more suitable home for the police department.
The city found a buyer in the Jefferson County Memorial Hospital Foundation, which acquired the one-story structure complete with a basement in February of 2012 and proceeded to turn it into a pharmacy with a complementary retail operation. Meanwhile, the city made arrangements to lease Suite C in the Valley Falls Medical Clinic at 100 E. Washington for use as a “City Hall,” and up until last Thursday, when City Clerk Patty Hamm, office assistant Debbie Martin and Chief of Police Paul Bolinger moved into their offices at the new City Hall, it was there that they worked and there that the council assembled on a regular basis to take up the business at hand.
Constructed at a cost of approximately $455,000, the 90-foot by 50-foot building was designed by Devore + Associates Architects of Ottawa, the firm the city hired to tackle the project after it had become so dissatisfied with the efforts of BG Consultants Inc., that the decision was made to part ways with the Lawrence firm. In recent weeks, however, the city has soured on Devore, too, mostly blaming it for the unforeseen expenses associated with the project the city has incurred thus far. One such expense involved the truss system for the roof, which had to be rebuilt by the manufacturer at a critical point in the timeline, forcing subcontractors who were scheduled to be working on the building to “cool their heels” while they waited for the roof to be finished.
It was reported in the March 27, 2014, issue of the paper that City Engineer Joe McAfee was optimistic about the chances of the new City Hall being available for occupancy as early as Labor Day, but bids on constructing it were not opened until July 17 and the apparent low bid, $455,000 from Loyd Builders Inc., also of Ottawa, was not accepted until Aug. 7. In the meantime, efforts to make the site ready for construction were delayed by the discovery of asbestos in the glazing for some of the windows in one of two former maintenance buildings that had a “date” with the proverbial “wrecking ball.”
Loyd’s bid was one of six the city received, all of which exceeded the $350,000 Mayor Eric Hull, Council President John Norman and council members Emily Malsbury, Amy Robbins, Eric LeRoux and Vince Newman had budgeted for the construction of a new City Hall. But because work on the building didn’t get underway until the tail end of last year, the city was able to essentially divide the cost of the project between the 2014 budget and the 2015 budget, which was very much to its advantage since it had to come up with an additional $105,000 somewhere along the way.
Once the decision was made to have some sort of a building constructed to house a new City Hall, city officials have insisted that the structure also include a large room where lots of people can get together to enjoy a meal, hear a talk, hold a shower, and so forth. The community room that occupies the north half of the building, which runs north-south, is just that, a place where residents and non-residents alike can gather to have a little fun, do some serious planning around a table, or, to combine both possibilities, mix business with pleasure.
A total of 200 chairs have been purchased by the city for this room, and there are 20 tables, each big enough to accommodate eight chairs, to go with them.
For-profit entities will be able to rent the room for an entire day at a cost of $200, which includes a refundable $100 cleaning deposit. For five hours or less of use, the rental fee is $150, which, again, includes the refundable $100 cleaning deposit.
Non-profit organizations will be able to use the room free of charge, but whether they use it all day or just half a day, they will still need to put down a refundable $100 cleaning deposit.
A storage room for tables and chairs is situated at the south end of the community room, between the east wall and the set of doors by which the room can be entered from the hallway that separates the utilities office from the police department’s office.
A small foyer along the west wall provides direct access to both the community room and the kitchen, which measures roughly 17 feet by 22 feet and includes a spacious food preparation area in the middle of the room. There is also a roll-up window facing the community room through which food can be served to diners or waiters and waitresses, as the case may be.
The men’s and women’s restrooms are located off the hallway, the men’s a little closer to the community room, the women’s nearer the main entrance to the building, which consists of a single set of doors. Each restroom is equipped with two sinks, two toilet stalls and a toilet stall designed to accommodate an individual who is handicapped.
There are two water fountains in the hallway, one of which is a little lower so it can be used by either a child or someone in a wheelchair.
Also located off the hallway are a janitor’s closet with a basin for disposing of dirty water and a secure storage room adjacent to the utilities office that can be accessed directly from it. The all-important mechanical room is situated along the west wall and is reached by way of the storage room.
The utilities office where Hamm and Martin work and the police department’s office where Bolinger “hangs his hat” when he is not behind the wheel of a patrol vehicle are similar in size. Both offices are secure in that the correct code has to be entered into the keypad lock on the door handle to gain access to the area, although there is a sliding set of windows at the one end of the utilities office where residents can stop to pay their monthly water bill or simply ask a question if it is information they are after.
The city has maintained a drop box at 605 Delaware since the old City Hall came down, but according to the city’s latest quarterly newsletter, it is to be removed sometime this month. The new drop box will be located along the south wall.
With respect to the main entrance, when viewed from outside, the utilities office is on the left, the police department’s office on the right. Immediately back of the latter, along the east wall, is a safe room where evidence collected by Bolinger and his fellow officers can be stored until it has to be retrieved for a court case. The room doubles as a storm shelter, albeit a pretty small one.
There also is a door at the east end of the police department’s office that will allow the officer on duty to quickly get to his patrol vehicle in the event of an emergency since city employees will be parking their vehicles in the gravel parking lot on the east side of the building.
Speaking of parking, there are six spaces in front of the building and eight more on the west side, two of which have been designated as handicapped spaces. They are the two spaces closest to the corner.
The frame building that encompasses an area of approximately 4,500 square feet rests on a concrete slab and is mostly covered by long vertical panels of light brown metal siding. Where the brown siding is not present, either a short brick wall or short panels of reddish metal siding is. The reddish siding basically matches the brick.
The much-missed “water crane” (i.e., bulk water machine) has reappeared after a period of several months while the new City Hall was under construction and is positioned at the northeast corner of the building. The “going rate” is 25 cents for 20 gallons of water. But the machine, it should be noted by would-be customers, cannot make change, nor will it dispense change should, for example, someone stick a 20-dollar bill in the slot when all they want is 20 gallons of water. In that case, they will receive 20 dollars’ worth of water unless they press the red “Stop” button to end the delivery of water.
The machine, it should also be noted, only accepts quarters and one-, five-, 10- and 20-dollar bills.
The city is trying to sell the lot where the old City Hall stood and reportedly has a potential buyer even though the property is not hooked up for either water or sewer at this time.

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Posted by on May 13 2015. Filed under Featured, The Independent. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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