Rehoboth Beach officials are still looking for a consensus on how to proceed with a proposed $15 million upgrade to City Hall.
Mayor Sam Cooper, chairman of the City Hall Complex Master Plan Task Force, hoped to get approval to move forward with additional design work at the May 17 commissioners' meeting.
However, the city commissioners, while liking the concept and agreeing that upgrades to City Hall are needed, were not unanimous in how to move forward. Issues include whether to have all departments in the same building and what to do about the four-year old, $1 million building and licensing facility at 306 Rehoboth Ave.
The commissioners agreed to continue discussion at the Monday, June 10 workshop meeting, where Cooper said he still hopes for a consensus on the concept.
“I don’t know if we’re there,” he said.
The plan, agreed on by the task force and designed by architects Davis, Bowen and Friedel with engineering firm EDiS, would begin with new police facilities on the green space in front of the current Rehoboth Avenue City Hall entrance.
The current City Hall would then be demolished; city offices would be relocated to temporary facilities while a new building is built. The temporary facilities and the tech services building on the east parking lot would be removed, opening up new parking. Public parking would be moved to the existing east lot, and police parking would be relocated to the west lot.
All along, the task force and City Manager Greg Ferrese have stated their desire is to have all city departments under one roof to improve communication. The current City Hall was built in 1965.
At the May 17 meeting, Mike Wigley of Davis, Bowen and Friedel and Rick DiSabatino of EDiS presented a timeline, eyeing a completion date of October 2015. Although the task force and the commissioners have only briefly discussed funding options, Cooper has said the city’s wastewater outfall project would be the top funding priority.
Still, Commissioner Bill Sargent is not certain everything should be under one roof.
“I’m very concerned that if we try to get everything in one building, we’ll end up with something that is not as good,” he said.
Sargent said the construction plan will not be as simple as it appears, and thinks it would be better if the police had their own separate building. He suggested using the western parking lot for the police station, a plan that was proposed in 2009 by then-architect Tevebaugh Associates. Sargent said the problem was Tevebaugh’s design took up too much of the space and was not an efficient use of land.
Commissioner Stan Mills, a member of the task force, has also said he would have liked to explore the idea of a detached police building, although he is generally supportive of the concept. Mills said he would like to see tweaks to add more open space, and possibly consider a third floor added that could be used for future police space. He said he hopes to see a new City Hall complex realized in his next term.
Cooper said the commissioners still have to determine the future of the 306 Rehoboth Ave. property, which could be sold or leased. EDiS has given the task force an estimate of $2 million in a sale of the property but has not conducted a formal appraisal. Cooper said building and licensing and the information technology department should return to City Hall.
Sargent said building of the separate city office at 306 in 2008, approved in a split 4-3 vote, was an example of what he didn’t want to see happen this time.
“I want this to go smoothly. I want to be certain the commissioners are unanimous, and people feel we have looked at all the alternatives. I want something that looks appropriate for Rehoboth,” he said. “We’ll get there.”
While Cooper is willing to debate the concept, he did not want to see the project bogged down with nothing coming out of it.
“At some point, you have to make decisions on something,” he said.
While not perfect and still in need of tweaking, Mills said, the concept has several positives. It allows for a possible future parking garage in the east parking lot, creates a more visually appealing entrance, establishes more public parking, allows safer transport of suspects in and out of the police station and provides access to Baltimore Avenue through the east parking lot.
“It has a lot of good elements to it,” Mills said.
“I happen to think the concept we have on the table has the most pluses and the least minuses,” Cooper said.