A plan to remodel the first floor of Spokane City Hall to make it more customer-friendly could cost more than $1.4 million.
Moving services to the ground floor that are most often used by citizens has been a goal of Mayor David Condon since he ran for mayor last year, and the cost estimate is included in a draft administrative report for Condon’s “Service First Initiative.”
The mayor has not signed off on a final version.
Officials stress that the actual cost of the renovation may be less than the estimate. The report says the initiative will be “budget neutral” – meaning cuts will be made in other areas to cover the cost of the program.
“The budget that we’ve drawn up for that is basically the Cadillac model and we’re hoping to get the same outcome at much less expense,” said Jonathan Mallahan, the city’s neighborhood and community services director, who is leading the effort to redesign City Hall.
Earlier this month, Condon announced that the city faces a 2013 budget shortfall of up to $10 million.
City Council President Ben Stuckart said he is unlikely to support spending much money to renovate City Hall as the city continues to deal with budget deficits.
“If we have 18 police positions that we’re not filling because of budget concerns about next year, we should not be spending $1.4 million on changes on City Hall,” he said.
City Councilman Mike Allen said he would wait to form an opinion about the costs of the program until he is presented budget details.
“I’m definitely interested in the concept,” Allen said. “The more user-friendly we can make City Hall, the better it is both for the citizens and for the staff.”
Mallahan said the current plan includes money for new lighting, flooring and ceilings to help brighten the atmosphere.
“These investments are going to make the space more inviting for our customers,” Mallahan said. “We really want to create a public space on the first floor where citizens feel comfortable.”
The main concept is to create one place on the first floor where citizens can conduct most of their business, including paying parking tickets, signing up for recreation classes, submitting utility bills, obtaining business licenses, submitting employment applications and, potentially, getting building permits.
The goal is to have the remodeling complete by Jan. 1.
The draft report also lists $251,000 in annual costs to implement the concept. That includes the cost of hiring three or four employees, Mallahan said.
“This needs to be budget neutral at the end of the day,” Mallahan said.
City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said current employees may be moved to the new positions.
The public currently must sign in whenever they go beyond the first floor. Feist said city workers recently studied the 45,000 visits made beyond the first floor during 2011 to get a sense of what services would make sense to move to the ground floor.
“The effort here is just to make City Hall a more inviting place for the citizens,” she said.