Our Views: Milton’s new offices suggest professional, progressive city

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Milton residents have reason to beam about their new City Hall and police station.

The offices are so new that workers were adjusting door locks and downspouts while Mayor Brett Frazier and City Administrator Jerry Schuetz gave a tour Wednesday. Boxes from Monday’s move had yet to be unpacked or discarded. Seeding and landscaping awaited.

Milton did this project right. It can’t be argued—as some in Janesville are over the new bus garage—that Milton built a Taj Mahal.

When the economy tanked in 2008, it would have been easy to batten down the hatches and ride out the fiscal storm. Instead, Milton’s administrators and elected officials showed leadership and courage in pushing plans for long-overdue facility upgrades.

A new public works building opened in 2012. Now, the attractive and functional City Hall and police department are in a prominent spot on Janesville Street on the newly designated Business Highway 26. To say the new digs are improvements over the old ones is like saying the new bypass has affected the city. With offices all on one level, they’re user-friendly and easily accessed.

The new city logo is prominent and plays on Milton’s rich history. Photos from the past grace the walls and bridge that history as the city begins this new era.

Linking the offices are roomy city council chambers, which do double duty as a municipal courtroom. Those fined at court hearings can pay at an adjacent office. In a well-furnished conference room, the council can meet in closed sessions while residents wait in the adjacent chambers. Officials also can meet with residents and developers in a professional setting equipped with electronics.

At City Hall, three windows let staffers help residents without leaving their desks. Offices for key personnel replace cubicles, reducing distractions and offering privacy. Separate doors give visitors quick access to the mayor’s and administrator’s offices. A break room with full kitchen means employees no longer wash dishes in a janitor’s closet.

The police station’s security boosts hopes of department accreditation this fall. Upfront are bullet-resistant glass and a room where residents can meet with officers. No longer will breaks, briefings, conferences and report writing happen in one room. Separate rooms offer privacy and efficiency. Men and women officers have separate locker rooms. No one will be catching rainwater leaking through the roof.

A new garage houses up to six squads, keeping pricey, weather-sensitive equipment inside. Those arrested can be booked, photographed and fingerprinted without the indignation of being paraded past other staffers. The climate-controlled basement has one server handling all city computer needs and a police evidence room 10 times the size of the old one.

The city did it all after buying a former Dean Clinic building and extra land for $303,000—about a third of the assessed value. When expansion and remodeling bids went over the $2.5 million budget, the city trimmed costs, particularly in furnishings. Staffers got involved, creating ownership of workspaces. Employees even handled the move from the old buildings, saving more money.

By having City Hall vacate the Shaw Building, the well-used library has room to double in size. Fundraising for that project could start this year.

The former City Hall and police station opened when Milton’s population was half its current 5,500. The new offices will serve the city long past population projections of 7,100 in 2030.

The city plans an open house after crews finish final touches, perhaps Aug. 5. Residents and staffers should fill the halls with pride. Their tax dollars have gone to facilities that showcase Milton as a professional and progressive city—a message that officials hope resonates when developers pay visits.

Gazette editorials express the views of the newspaper’s editorial board. Readers are encouraged to comment on editorials through letters to the editor.

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