By Steve Plunkett
A $750,000 proposal to revamp Town Hall would allow people to get from the main lobby to commission chambers without going outside and consolidate the Police Department at the rear of the building.
Architect Mark Marsh of Palm Beach-based Bridges, Marsh and Associates gave commissioners a tour of the plan at their June 26 workshop. The renovations would cover part of the north wing, the central area and the south wing, which includes the commission chambers, he said.
“What’s not included is the post office. It is not going away. It stays as is,” said Marsh, whose recent designs include the town halls of Palm Beach and Ocean Ridge.
The overhaul will be limited to the Town Hall’s existing configuration, what Marsh called its envelope.
“We’re not expanding. We’re just reshuffling space to make it more efficient and respond to more current technologies,” he said.
Marsh’s plan moves the commission chambers from the back of Town Hall to the front and creates a 7-foot-wide gallery connecting the north wing and a new chamber lobby. Bathrooms outside the chambers and off the current lobby would be consolidated into one set of ADA-compliant facilities.
Marsh said the biggest change would be to the commission dais, which would widen from a horseshoe shape to more of a crescent. Commissioners would get individual computer monitors to keep up with proceedings.
Marsh’s firm was paid $58,000 to develop the plan, which does not include costs of audio-video upgrades, other technology improvements and some furnishings. Those items could add at least $50,000 to the cost, he said.
The project would take three to four months to draw up construction documents and review bids and six months of actual construction. Police Chief Craig Hartmann said his officers could use other offices in Town Hall during the work.
Finance Director Cale Curtis said the project could be paid for with reserve funds, a tax increase or a bond. Former Mayor Arlin Voress said commissioners could raise the current $350,000 spending limit to avoid triggering a referendum.
Vice Mayor Ron Brown said the town should use its reserves and then figure how to replenish them.
“We’re in a situation now where we have the capability to move from the ‘70s and the ‘80s to 2020 and beyond. And it’s probably the cheapest time frame we’ll ever have to do it,” Brown said.
The proposed budget for fiscal 2011 included $100,000 to update the commission chambers and $200,000 to refurbish the Police Department. Neither item survived budget workshops; neither appeared in the 2012 proposal.
Commissioners will have a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. July 17 to set a tentative tax rate for 2012-2013. Curtis in May told commissioners he anticipated a $1 million budget gap. Unless commissioners raise taxes or cut spending they will fall below the desired $2.35 million in reserves in two years, he said. Ú