POST FALLS – Perhaps the most controversial issue Post Falls voters will decide Nov. 6 is whether to preserve the current 1979-era City Hall building at 408 N. Spokane St.
If the measure receives majority support, it will nullify last year’s uncontested, unanimous City Council decision to demolish the white, concrete-block building after construction of a new City Hall is completed in spring.
Bob Templin, founder of Red Lion Templin’s Hotel on the River, is leading the charge to save the building from the wrecking ball. He believes the city should “maintain and preserve” the 7,500-square-foot building for public use.
But Mayor Clay Larkin said that’s an outlandish suggestion at this stage of the game.
“If we’re told to keep that building, we’re going to … have to dig up and relocate the infrastructure (for new City Hall) that’s already been paid for and put in place. It isn’t as simple as just building a culvert to divert all the water runoff,” Larkin said, referring to numerous underground utilities and a swale that would need to be dug to prevent flooding in the older building.
Larkin noted that the building is not historic and saving it now will cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million.
“I can tell them that if they choose to keep (current City Hall) it will trigger a property tax increase,” Larkin said. “It’s wrong to ask the taxpayers to keep an energy-inefficient building … that has no historical value and major deficiencies.”
Templin, in a letter sent to media outlets last week, wrote: “… the alleged cost to taxpayers is grossly inflated.”
Post Falls’ City Administrator Eric Keck said Templin has failed to share the lower restoration estimates he’s come up with.
Meanwhile, some longtime residents question Templin’s crusade over a 28-year-old building. A few years ago, he ordered the demolition of at least six old buildings that he owned, most of them historical, in the city center. The Advance Printing Building, a hardware store, Kirk’s Black and White, a shoe shop, Don’s Pool Hall and the Odd Fellows and Rebekah Lodge were torn down to make way for new commercial buildings, Historical Society records show.
Templin also belonged to a steering committee that recommended construction of a new City Hall followed by destruction of the current building, Larkin added.
However, Templin now believes “… there is no reason to destroy an asset, such as the historic and beloved landmark of the Old City Hall, which has already been paid for, and which may still be utilized to benefit the public.”