Economic development, and the role of City Hall, was also a large part of the discusion at the council’s retreat.
Councilman Ben Wick said the city should sit down with the various groups that also work on economic development like the local chambers of commerce. “I’d like to see us kind of provide that leadership,” he said.
Mayor Tom Towey said the groups don’t really collaborate on their efforts. “I think we would be strong in the region if they all worked together,” he said.
Council members agreed that Wick and Councilwoman Brenda Grassel would meet with the city manager and community development director to come up with a list of community groups to include in the task force and outline the goals of the group. “We’ve got to move forward,” Grassel said.
Part of the discussion centered around the city’s plans to create a new building permit center in City Hall rather than having a separate office in a strip mall next door. The plan hinged on a first floor tenant moving elsewhere in the building, but that won’t be happening, said Community Development Director John Hohman. “At this point we’re looking at options,” he said.
The plan, which would include moving walls and creating a new public counter, would cost an estimated $200,000. The city’s lease on its City Hall space ends in March 2013 and City Manager Mike Jackson questioned whether the city should spend that much now or start looking for a new home. “Do we start to look now?” Jackson said. “It’s coming up on us pretty fast. We’re going to have to make a decision.”
Several council members said they had no interest in buying a new city hall “tomorrow” but said the city should begin evaluating its options. “I don’t know that it’s going to get any cheaper than it is now,” Wick said.
Grassel agreed that the city should investigate. “I think at some point you are going to need your own building,” she said.
“I think it has to be along Sprague or not very far off Sprague on one of the side streets,” Woodard said.