Lower Burrell moving ahead with $4.3 million city hall renovation project

October 3, 2018
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The Lower Burrell tax office is located in a building next to city hall. Aug. 12, 2017

Lower Burrell is looking to borrow $4.3 million to finance its city hall renovation project.

Mayor Rich Callender said the architect’s cost estimates for the work come to about $3.7 million. He said that includes a 20 percent contingency fee to cover an cost overruns.

As for the additional $600,000 being sought, “We’re making it a little bit higher in case the bids are too high,” Callender said.

That is being done as a safeguard because construction bids in other municipalities have run higher than expected.

“If it (project bid) comes in lower, we can use the extra amount to pay off some of the principal and interest,” he said.

While acknowledging that the project is a costly one, Callender and Councilman Chris Fabry, director of accounts and finances, said it is both necessary and long overdue.

City officials previously cited the need for more space for city offices and the police department.

When options were first proposed a year ago, they noted that the public works department can barely fit its equipment into its space under city hall. In addition, the police department had a critical need for more and better space for officers to work in and to store evidence properly to meet federal standards.

In addition, the current roof and windows leak and the building has had problems with mold.

“We’ve done everything we can to push this back for as long as we can,” Fabry said.

Under the renovation plan, the public works department would be moved into a new pole building to house its equipment on the area across from city hall where there is now a basketball court. The police department would move from the first floor of city hall into the basement area now occupied by the public works department.

City hall offices would then be expanded on the first floor and the tax office, which is now in its own building across Schreiber Street, will be moved into city hall. The vacant tax building will then be turned into a community center where various organizations such as scout troops can hold meetings.

The need for the renovation program was underscored by the fact that council approved specifications for the immediate repair or replacement of the city hall roof, air-handling units and windows.

City Administrator Amy Rockwell said those are separate from the upcoming renovation project.

“We have some issues with the roof now and some issues with the air handling units that need to be repaired sooner rather than later,” Rockwell said.

She said officials hope to have that work done in November, weather permitting.

In addition, she said council included replacing the roof of Fisher Hall in Burrell Lake Park to see if it would be cost effective to do all of it together.

Referring to the larger city hall project, Callender said, “The next step is to put out for proposals for the bonds we want to secure.”

Rockwell said she will be working with the architect to put together the bond and construction bid requests for proposals. She said they should go out in December with the goal of starting construction in the spring.

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