Allegan city hall renovation debate again hits standstill

Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Allegan City Council members again debated the $1,081,300 conceptual plan to renovate city hall during their pre-session meeting on Monday, Nov. 25. Again, the discussion ended in an impasse with council members Nancy Ingalsbee and Charles Tripp against investing money in the current location.

A month ago, council members discussed finance plans to bond the cost over either a 10-year or 15-year period, with payments coming from the general fund budget, therefore not raising the current millage rate. Council members then took 30 days to mull it over.

At issue is the lack of space in the current configuration which includes a bank vault and furnace no longer in operation; no elevator for handicap accessibility and staff to carry boxes of files to the basement; a basement storage area that retains moisture; no confidential conference rooms; a reception area located under a staircase; extreme heat and cold differences; and more. The conceptual plan shows how to remedy the shortcomings.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people and the feeling was ‘why rush?” Ingalsbee said. “For years we’ve asked for certain things and been told there is no money in the budget, now people ask where did the money come from.

“I don’t think we should spend 1.1 million to get an elevator and fancy conference room.”

Mayor pro-tem Rachel McKenzie pointed out that construction costs would be more if city hall was to move to a different location and after previously seeking other locations, the community did not want the city to give up the iconic former bank building on Locust Street.

City manager Joel Dye said that is why GMB Architects were hired at a cost of $11,200, to study the space available and make a conceptual plan to utilize and access space better.

However, Ingalsbee said the cost would probably go higher being a former bank building with steel enforced flooring. She noted that steel flooring was discovered in the former National City Bank and that is why an elevator cannot be installed there.

While the plan is a conceptual idea, before it can go to bid for actual costs, architectural and engineering construction specifications would need to be developed, which would cost $98,300, but include construction management throughout the project.

Council member Tripp asked if the budget could absorb renovations and still allow a riverfront infrastructure maintenance fund of $750,000 to $1 million, which he has repeatedly asked for. He also noted the outside of the Regent Theatre is crumbling.

“We don’t have a maintenance fund to care for what we have now,” he said

Dye said he and the DPW director are planning to work on a city maintenance plan over the winter months. In a few weeks, the city will also learn if they are the recipient of a  Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant that would have an effect on maintenance.

Ingalsbee said the city needed to take the same approach as the library did for its renovations.

“They went about it slowly and cautiously, got buy-in from the public and presented the community three options,” she said.

Mayor Stacie Stotmeister had to close the meeting and move city hall discussions to the next pre-session meeting because the regular council meeting was ready to start.

“We need to keep discussing this, but not reiterate what has already been discussed,” she said.


Discord continues

During new committee appointments recommended by the new mayor, both Ingalsbee and Tripp were not happy with how the appointments were handled or communicated and noted they were the only two council members that did not get the appointment they asked for.

When Tripp suggested it was because they were being verbal about city hall, Stotmeister asked him to be careful with his suggestions.

Stotmeister said mixing up the committee appointments makes council members more well-rounded.

“You talked of clarity in the past, this gives clarity and allows other council members to be on different committees,” Stotmeister said. “I also asked for three committee preferences and didn’t get it from either one of you.”

Ingalsbee said the only committee she wanted to be on was the Historic District Commission because that was her passion.  She was appointed to Economic Development Corporation and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Wellhead Protection Committee.

Both Ingalsbee and Tripp said they have previously served on numerous committees.

Ingalsbee was also appalled that Pete Savage, who had been the historic committee chairman for the past 10 years, was not reappointed to the commission and according to ordinance, terms had to be three years, not one or two years as presented.

Stotmeister said she recommended appointments based on reviewing the application submitted, not by whose name was on the application—the process used by business management. The reason the terms were different was to catch up with terms that expired but continued the appointment. As is, the terms will not have staggered expiration years.

Ingalsbee said it was a small town and taking 10 years of volunteering as chairman of the committee should have been taken into consideration. She was also appalled no one called Savage to tell him he was no longer on the board.

Stotmeister apologized for the lack of communication. “I’m not the best at picking up the phone and I need to do that in the future,” she said.

Both Ingalsbee and Tripp declined to accept their appointments; however, Tripp changed his mind after council members said it was a burden on other council members to take on the extra appointments. He still asked for improved communications when selecting committees.

Appointed to the historic commission for three-year terms were William Quinones-Walker, Mike Morton and Jill Bentley.

Council members were appointed to the following city boards and commissions for one year:

Mike Manning—Planning Commission, Parks Commission, Design Advisory Board, Economic Development Commission

Rachel McKenzie—Downtown Development Authority and Planning Commission

Patrick Morgan—Allegan Fire District Board, Election Commission and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Wellhead Protection Committee

Traci Perrigo—Historic District Commission and Election Commission

Stacie Stotmeister—Downtown Development Authority and Planning Commission

Charles Tripp—Airport Advisory Board and Pension Committee


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