City Councillors gave a lukewarm reception at best to a plan presented by Mayor Dan Rizzo on Monday to renovate City Hall – including building a new Mayor’s Office – to the tune of $1 million.
While no one was inherently against the idea of renovating the Hall – though there were some private grumblings – the timing of the proposal was what particularly fell flat.
“Before I could support anything like this, though I recognize the need, I think there are several other issues that need to be addressed with regard to providing services to the residents of this community,” said Councillor John Powers, alluding to the fact that numerous potholes still need to be addressed.
It was not something, though, that was a surprise to Mayor Rizzo – who put his request in with the caveat that the Council hold onto the request until after budget season.
“I ask you to hold it in Ways and Means [Committee] while we deliberate on the budget,” he said. “There is a chance we may not go forward with the plan. We need to see how the numbers are going to look…We are going to have a very difficult year this year. My concern isn’t as much this year as next year. We’re ambitious. We’d like to get this done, but I’m not pressing you for an answer any time until we know our budget and present it to you.”
Councillor Brian Arrigo said he would like to see detailed plans, which were not included with the submission letter. He also wanted a more detailed cost estimate for the entire project.
That said, there was a meeting where plans were unveiled to councillors last month, but that was sparsely attended due to the fact that it happened during work hours.
Councillor Jessica Giannino said she understood the need for City Hall repairs, but felt it would be wise to look into spending some money at the DPW Building.
“We have offices down there where they have to put tarps on the computers when it rains,” she said.
Mayor Rizzo said they do have plans drawn up and are willing to have a meeting in the future to go over them in great detail.
The plan calls for modernizing and moving several offices.
That includes moving the Treasurer’s Office – one of the busiest offices – to the office now occupied by the Assessor’s Office.
It also calls for moving the Mayor’s Office to the remaining part of the upstairs Auditorium, renovating half of that space to provide a more modern office space.
The current Mayoral Office would be re-used, perhaps for Economic Development offices. Likewise, the project would also provide a lunchroom for employees, which the Hall has never had.
“A lot of this is asking the question, how do we better serve the public?” Rizzo said. “We thought a lot of these changes would make sense. It’s not just to make the offices look nice – that’s part of it…but we also want to serve the public as efficiently as we can.”
The plan is to use $1 million of the City’s Free Cash, which was certified by the state at $3.292 million last March.
Other councillors were also not excited about the idea, at least at the moment.
But then again, neither was Mayor Rizzo, who said repeatedly that it’s going to be a tough budget season and renovations to City Hall will come only after the budget is square.
Councillor Arthur Guinasso said the best course of action in his opinion would be to reconvene on the issue in the fall.
“Let’s come back with some definite plans in the fall,” he said. “Before that, we’re just talking.”