SWEET HOME — Sweet Home’s new City Hall pays homage to the community’s rich logging history through the extensive use of wood,including locally grown and milled reception area counter tops, a planned rotating artifact display area and artwork created by local residents.
For more than a year, City Council meetings have been held at the Sweet Home Police Department, but starting at 6:30 p.m. today, they will be held in the new City Hall, the former U.S. Forest Service office at 3225 Highway 20.
“It’s nice,” City Manager Ray Towry said Monday morning. “This building is going to meet our staff needs and our community needs for the next 50 years. We have lots of space now, and there is about another third of the building’s total square footage that can be developed down the road.”
Fifteen city staff members have moved into the remodeled building and opened its doors to the general public at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Towry said. An open house for the public is set for Aug. 24 (see information box).
The city paid $750,000 for the 13,000-square-foot building that sits on more than 5 acres in July 2016. The building was constructed in 1985 and housed the U.S. Forest Service staff until 2006. It had been empty since then. The city had considered constructing a new building, but did not believe it could be done as efficient financially.
The previous City Hall was built in 1954 and has structural and mold issues. For many years, the council had met in a modular building behind City Hall that had been set on-site in 1996 after flooding forced relocation of the Police Department.
With remodeling, the total project cost is about $2 million, Towry said. And with the building comes a storage building, enough land to add a small city park and ample parking space.
“It’s inevitable that Sweet Home is going to grow and with that growth, there will be more city staffing,” Towry said.
Although the bulk of the renovations were completed in June, the city had issues connecting with fiber optics for computer access.
“That wasn’t done until 2:30 p.m. Friday,” Towry said. “We were already moving in and we were sweating.”
Towry said the move was accomplished with city staff.
“We started bringing things over slowly over the last month,” Towry said.
The building features an open floor plan. The main entry is large and will feature local artwork and a mural. There is a small public conference room and a larger conference room, as well as reception windows for general public needs and payments and for community development and planning.
The counter tops for both areas are made from lumber that was milled from large trees pulled from Foster Reservoir by Linn County Parks.
“The counter tops were made by Dustin Nichol, shop teacher at Sweet Home High School,” Towry said. “He’s also going to make a table for the larger public conference room. The sliding barn-style doors for the conference room were made by Don Sullivan of the Public Works Department.”
Staff engineer Joe Graybill repurposed furniture for the new kitchen/break area.
Like the entry area, the new council chambers features a large amount of wood, including a wall behind the councilors and two large beams.
“Eventually, we will attach dividers to the beams so several groups can use this space at the same time,” Towry said.
There are three large TV monitors so council documents can be easily seen during meetings by the general public and for use in the future, when the room will be dividable.
GBC Construction was in charge of the project and Towry said Mike Tallerday and Lindsey Devine, “were very flexible. This was a design/build project, so there were a lot of unknowns, but they were great to work with.”
“The staff is feeling its way through the new space,” Towry said. “It’s a big change. We also did a lot of house cleaning and got rid of a lot of things that are no longer needed.”
He credited Finance Director Brandon Neish with “saving us a lot of money” by working with electrical contractors on the project.
Towry said a fireproof storage area still needs to be established for long-term files and since the building will be used as an emergency center during natural disasters, city staff is researching installation of a large generator.
Public Works staffers were busy Monday landscaping, including planting grass seed.
“I’m ecstatic about finally getting this building opened,” Mayor Greg Mahler said. “It has taken a lot of time, effort and hard work to get to this day, but it is worth it. It is a gorgeous building and I think the citizens of Sweet Home are going to be very proud of it.”
Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.
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