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Milton revisits Burdick plan

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
March 22, 2012
— The city of Milton is again eyeing a soon-to-be vacant industrial building as a future municipal services center.

This week, the Milton City Council approved getting proposals for a feasibility study of whether it could funnel City Hall, the Milton Public Library, and the city's fire and police departments into the privately owned, 80,000 square-foot Burdick building at 15 Plumb St.


While the city already has conceptual drawings of what the building could look like if modified to house city services, the council is considering hiring a consultant to see if a changeover truly would work.


"We need to have somebody come in here with an outside eye, to ask can it be done," Mayor Tom Chesmore said in an interview.


City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said the city could submit consultants' proposals to the council and the joint fire commission on April 17. The city does not have a set limit for costs on a potential study.


Last fall, the city unveiled a possible deal to buy the building for about $5 million. City services are scattered in buildings throughout the city, so moving them to the Burdick building would consolidate them in one place, officials say.


The move is possible because ANGI Energy Systems is vacating the building and moving to the 215,000-square-foot former Gilman plant, 305 W. Delavan Drive, Janesville.


The city had earmarked discussion on the possible move in a list of short-term plans earlier this year. However, public dialogue on the plan has been scant. The council's decision to pursue a potential feasibility study came out of a closed session Tuesday.


After initially backing the plan last fall, Chesmore recently has taken a more muted stance.


Last month, when ANGI formally announced it would leave Milton, Chesmore said he was unsure if the city should seriously pursue the building as a future home for city services. He said the council was in "no big hurry to make any more of a commitment for a building that obviously we'd have to spend money on."


In an interview this week, Chesmore remained bridled in his comments. He said he believes the Burdick building plan would work only if a feasibility study showed it's possible to relocate all city services included in earlier plans.


"It pretty much has to bring everybody together, or nothing," he said. "If it's not going to be feasible for one, it's not going to be feasible for any of them."


The plan hinges largely on whether the city could sell the Shaw Municipal Building, 430 E. High St., which now houses City Hall and the library. It also would have to sell the current police and fire departments and the former public works building on West Madison Avenue. The buildings would be vacant based on earlier plans.


Under the earlier proposal, the city would rent the Burdick building from owners McGuire-Lasse LLP on a land-contract rolled out over five years. The owners would pay to convert the plant for city use, and the city would use money from the sale of the buildings it would vacate to pay rent down on the Burdick building. The city would pay back the project with capital improvement funds.


It's unclear what current thinking is on the earlier proposal. The Gazette was unable to reach owners of the Burdick building for comment on whether negotiations with the city have rekindled or have taken a different shape.



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