The decision from Elkhorn city officials that the community needs a new City Hall has been pretty apparent for a while, and it appears the choice for a location has now become clear, too.
James Heilman, who soon will become Elkhorn’s city administrator, said the city has narrowed its selection for a new location to one spot: city-owned property on Seymour Court near where Highway 67 meets Interstate 43.
This site won’t be restricted by size, he said. Parking and meeting space will be much more available.
The city also does not have the same storm water concerns at this location as another one considered at Sunset Park. When the industrial park at Commerce Court and Seymour Court was built, a retention pond was included to cover the entire space—which Heilman said helped the city make its pick.
Another benefit is the other city-owned land nearby. Heilman said when the police department’s lease in the county building downtown ends in 12 years, moving out by City Hall is an option to consider. The same goes for the fire department if it wants to add a satellite building in the future, for example.
Heilman said the city needs a spot where it could stay for 50 years or more. If it needs to expand, it would not make sense to pick a spot where expansion is off the table.
“That’s not the way you build a building,” he said.
The site does have downsides. It is about 2 miles from the current City Hall in Elkhorn’s downtown. Heilman said the city has over time become accustomed to the location in the community’s center.
“We explored that for a number of years and tried to find a site here that would actually work,” he said of downtown. “And it just doesn’t work.”
Picking an option that is closer, such as Sunset Park, but sacrificing future flexibility would not be good long-term planning, he added.
The current space at 9 S. Broad St. is an old building that is about three times larger than needed, Heilman said. The basement is too moist to be used as work space, and there is no sizable meeting space.
Parking is limited, and the heating and air conditioning system is “just barely limping by” and can give staff a “surprise every day,” he said.
The unused space means the city is wasting energy daily, he added.
Building a new City Hall has been on the city's list of priorities for a while. Now that it is at or near the top of the list, Elkhorn soon should be on its way to a new facility.
Heilman said renovations would cost about the same as a new building, but renovations wouldn’t cure all the problems.
“There’s deterioration everywhere,” he said.
The cost for a new City Hall would be $4.3 million to $4.4 million, including engineering, architecture fees, landscaping and storm water, Heilman said.
Unless something unexpected changes, Heilman said, the Seymour Court location will be the spot. He expects the city council at its meeting Tuesday to decide if it wants a phase-one environmental review of the land.
Kehoe-Henry & Associates in Elkhorn is set to work on the project.
The timeline, as it stands now, looks like this:
- Approve a plan by the end of the year.
- Go out to bid in April 2020.
- Begin the project in May or June.
- Complete the project about a year later—so June 2021 or thereabouts.
“We hope to produce a building the city can be proud of in the next couple years,” Heilman said.