Milton officials request more cost estimates on city buildings plan

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

— The potential future for Milton's library, City Hall and police department reads like a Magic 8 Ball. Give it a shake and the forecast keeps changing.

This week's latest twist: City Hall could move out of the Shaw building and occupy space in the future police station at the former Dean medical building at 710 N. Janesville St.

It would take a significant building addition and would boost renovation costs at the future police department from an estimated $1.7 million to as much as $2.5 million.

Tuesday, the city council asked consultant Angus-Young Associates to prepare plans for a combined police station and City Hall at a cost no higher than $2.5 million.

City Administrator Jerry Schuetz and accounting consultants for the city said the move would be within city borrowing limits. Schuetz said the move would open up the whole first and second floor of the 21,000 square-foot Shaw Building for use by the Milton Public Library.

City Hall currently occupies the top floor of the building, and the library occupies the first floor. City council chambers are in the building's basement.

The move Tuesday came as the council heard cost estimates from Jeff Hazekamp of Angus-Young on an earlier concept to move City Hall to the first floor, split space with the library and open up the second floor for library use.

Schuetz said the idea of moving City Hall to the new police station came into play after council members independently spoke with him about reservations with the proposed Shaw renovation plan.

The plan was rebuffed by three of six council members earlier this month and was pushed forward for cost estimates by the city council only after Mayor Tom Chesmore cast a tie-breaking vote. Council members were concerned the plan would leave City Hall cramped in the Shaw building and pave the way for an eventual addition to the building.

On Tuesday night, Hazekamp estimated the Shaw project would cost about $1.2 million if it included renovations for the library and City Hall. He said a full renovation to turn the whole Shaw building into library space would cost about $1 million.

Tuesday the council opted to forestall major renovations at the Shaw building for library use and instead shifted focus to adding space at the future police station for City Hall.

That plan would include an 8,000 square-foot build-out including a basement for storage. Under a new plan, the municipal court room at the police station would double as city council chambers. Estimates for that work were just over $2.9 million, according to Hazekamp. The council has asked Hazekamp to shave about $400,000 off costs to meet the budget.

According to city financial consultant Todd Taves of Ehlers and Associates, the city could afford to incorporate a City Hall build out at the future police department if it floated $1.9 million in bonds and spend $600,000 in reserve funds without maxing out the city's debt limit.

Taves said if the city funded the project under a plan that had low initial payments on principal, it could "maintain an even keel" with city debt. But he said the expense would mean it could be three or four years before the city would be able to undertake another major project without having to raise its debt limit.

The project could mean a $30,000 to $50,000 jump in the city tax levy for about three years, and an increase in city taxes during the same period of about $24 for someone with a $100,000 home, Taves and Schuetz said.

The plan does not address costs for renovations to add space for the library at the Shaw building, which is the busiest library per capita in Rock County, according to city records. Chesmore said the city could dip further into reserve funds to ready some additional space for library use, but major electrical renovations would have to wait.

Library Director Lisa Brooks said the library eventually will need 16,000 square feet of space—about double what it has now—but the most pressing need is additional meeting space for youth programming.

Last updated: 8:09 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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