Sam Tapson says Elkhorn’s City Hall is “well worn,” to put it mildly.
A new building probably was needed when Tapson started 20 years ago as city administrator, he said.
That project has been on the list of priorities for a while. Now that it is at or near the top of the list, Elkhorn should be on its way to a new city hall.
Tapson expects Kehoe-Henry & Associates, based in Elkhorn, soon will begin looking at a 2007 study on the subject and examining what has changed since then, such as how technological advancements have altered the flow and efficiency of offices.
The Elkhorn City Council on May 20 deferred approving the design services contract because the city attorney wanted to make modifications, Tapson said. He said he is “pretty sure” the council will approve the contract June 3.
In Tapson’s opinion, this project should have been at or near the top of the list 10 to 15 years ago.
“There’s really, I would say, no argument about the need to do something to actually move on in a modern facility,” he said. There are “lots of problems and lots of issues that would cost a considerable amount of money to address.”
The current City Hall is not efficient with several levels and limited usable space, Tapson said. The basement is prone to flooding, and the building has struggled with mold infestations. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system doesn’t operate well, either, he said.
“It is an old building and would take substantial renovation,” Tapson said.
While the need has not been questioned much, Tapson said the debate has always come down to money—borrowing it, total project cost and tax levy implications.
“That’s going to remain an issue on anything the city does of any consequence,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten past that.”
One possible location for a new City Hall is on city-owned property in the business park.
While Tapson said he doesn’t think this option will be the favorite, it wouldn’t cost the city anything to acquire the property. Roads, water and sewer infrastructure are already approved there, too.
Another option is the “considerable amount” of frontage along Highway 11 at Sunset Park, he said.
Private spaces are under consideration, too, but Tapson did not want to disclose those spots yet.
Estimates from various firms have pegged the cost around $2.5 million to $4 million, Tapson said.
This type of project would affect city finances. Tapson said the current plan includes a “fairly aggressive” 10-year payoff with the first four years being an interest-only kind of structure.
With payments spread across a decade, Tapson said he did not think taxpayers would be too burdened.
At the same time, he said, it’s hard to say now without knowing the interest rate on municipal bonds.
He emphasized that the process is just beginning and many more decisions lie ahead.
“At best,” he said, the city could move in during the middle of 2021.