Like fitting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a Rehoboth Beach task force is putting a new City Hall facility together department by department.
At its Sept. 9 meeting, the City Hall Master Plan Task Force agreed to put the city administrative offices on the first floor of the proposed $15 million City Hall project, since that department is most frequently interacting with people.
Building and licensing, information technology and the city commissioners’ room would be put on the second floor. The police department and 911 center would be split, with the main offices upstairs and the 911 center downstairs.
The task force, working with contractor EDiS and engineer Mike Wigley of Davis, Bowen and Friedel, also discussed the possibility of a third floor, which could house either the commissioners’ room or serve as additional space for the police.
Wigley and Mayor Sam Cooper said it was important for the task force to reach consensus as to which departments would go where. Now, Cooper said, Wigley can fit the different pieces together, provide alternatives and “take it to the next level.”
“I thought it was very productive,” Cooper said of the task force’s Sept. 9 meeting.
Part of that meeting included exploring a new alternative proposed by Wigley and EDiS. So far, the plan has been to begin building the police facilities in front of the current municipal building, relocating the bulk of the department to temporary facilities and then moving them back when the rest of the building is completed.
Under the new alternative however, the police would stay in their current quarters and the city administration half, or western section, would be demolished, and the new police facility built in its place. This, Commissioner Bill Sargent said, would prevent a double move for the police.
Wigley said while this alternative needs to be further explored, he believed it is potentially a better way to do the project. Sargent, who personally favors a separate police station, said he liked Wigley’s new alternative because it could cut $700,000 worth of new building costs in half, possibly saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Structurally, it looks like it can be done,” Wigley said.
The only monkey wrench in this plan has been what to do about the mechanical room that sits in the area to be demolished. The mechanical room contains, among other things, the heating and air conditioning for the police station and the convention center. Wigley said he was looking at moving the mechanical functions to a vacant area of the building.
In addition to that, Wigley said he would also be looking at alternatives for access, as well as variations on what a third floor could look like.
Commissioner Stan Mills said he would still like to see a grander entrance to the convention center. While there are no plans for work on the convention center itself, the entrance and parking lot for the center are being shifted to the east side of the building and the foyer will be reconfigured. Mills said he was looking for something bigger, grander and more spacious in the foyer than what has so far been proposed. He said he envisions the foyer being similar to that of a movie theater or concert hall.
Still, Mills said he likes the direction the project is headed, as well as the makeup of the task force, which now includes all seven city commissioners and a second architect, Wayne Neale.
"We have a good team, and I think we are going in a very good direction," he said.