New City Hall, police department set to open Monday
MILTON—When Milton City Clerk Michelle Ebbert was packing for the move to the new City Hall building, she found the city's charter from the 1960s.
The papers were folded up on a shelf at the 430 E. High St. office.
“She was like, 'Look at this. This is kind of a big deal. This is when we became a city,'” City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said.
“That's a very big deal,” Schuetz responded.
The newly framed papers hang in the renovated building at 710 S. Janesville St. that now houses City Hall and the police department. The building will be open to the public for the first time Monday. City staff is still unpacking, and minor construction is finishing up.
The building underwent a $2.45 million renovation in what is historic for the evolution of the city, Schuetz said.
“People like to take great pride in their community. A facility like this will allow them to do that,” he said.
After a lunch break at the old City Hall, staff had to wash their dishes in the janitor's closet, Schuetz said. Front desk workers at the old police department at 120 Parkview Drive sat in front of plastic buckets catching rainwater from a leaky roof.
And they weren't nearly big enough, Schuetz said of the 40-year-old buildings.
The new facility, about 15,000 square feet, was designed to provide staff and citizens a more safe, functional environment, he said.
Built in 1990, the building was a Dean Clinic before renovation. Only two remnants remain of the old layout—the front desk area of the police department and a basement stairwell. Otherwise, it's unrecognizable.
Old photos from Milton Historical Society archives line the walls, paying tribute to Milton's history. Mayor Brett Frazier helped find the pieces, Schuetz said.
City staff had a large part in the project's hands-on work, from finding furniture to hammering in nails. The city saved $15,000 by having staff move to the new building themselves. Packing started in April, and staff put in long hours and weekends to move things over, Schuetz said.
“I can't speak highly enough of our staff,” he said.
The original bid for the project was 2.7 million, which was shot down by the council. After finding money saving alternatives, like buying desks off craigslist.com, the bid was lowered to $2.45 million.
The money saving tactics meant staff could be more involved in designing their work spaces.
“There's a lot of sweat and a lot of ownership in the facility from the staff level,” Schuetz said.
City Hall staff has divided office spaces and the entire building has an electronic key entry system. Natural light floods the administrative offices and front kiosk, which is divided by a tabletop and glass that defines unauthorized access.
An LCD monitor hangs in the large conference room, made for city council closed sessions and staff meetings.
Council chambers and the municipal courtroom were built for multipurpose use. A ramp leads up to elevated council seats, providing better separation from general seating.
The new digital microphones have a “permission to speak” system, with red lights that signal when a council member is OK'd to talk.
“It's going to bring a higher sense of decorum and professionalism,” Schuetz said about the council chambers' new features.
Bullet-proof glass lines the front kiosk in the police department's separate entrance. An enclosed conference room to the right of the doors was built as a media room and officer intake room. The enclosed spaces provide greater privacy and security for staff and clients, Schuetz said.
All lieutenants and detectives have their own offices and access to a large briefing room for staff meetings.
“My office is about a third of this size at the old building,” Detective Ryan Justice said from behind his new desk.
Staff has separate locker rooms in the new building—an upgrade from the unisex locker room that worked on a rotation system at the old place.
Another upgrade not all police departments have onsite is a booking room equipped with a sally door and three interrogation rooms. The sally door provides greater privacy for people coming in and the interrogation rooms are specifically designed—two cement-lined rooms for “hard” interrogations and one carpeted, furnished room for “soft” interrogations.
The biggest change for the police department is the addition of a six-stall garage, Schuetz said.
ONE OF THE BEST
A lot of planning went into designing the building for the entities' specific functions, Schuetz said. It benefits Milton's elderly population with physical limitations because they no longer have to walk up stairs to get to City Hall, he added.
“It's much more user-friendly and it's easier to figure out where you need to be,” he said.
Compared to the town of Beloit Police Department facility—built new as of three or four years ago—the new Milton Police Department is easily as nice, if not better, Schuetz said.
“This will be one of the best facilities in the region for police departments of agencies our size,” he said.