Rehoboth officials set to take city hall plans public

Cooper: It's functionally obsolete
Rehoboth Beach officials are expected to hold presentations on building plans and funding for a new City Hall complex Friday, Aug. 15. The current building has been in place since the mid-1960s. SOURCE FILE
July 31, 2014

A Rehoboth Beach task force will take plans for a proposed $15 million City Hall upgrade public Friday, Aug. 15.

The Rehoboth City Hall Master Plan Task Force will hold a special meeting when architect Mike Wigley will give a presentation of the plan, followed by a presentation by Mayor Sam Cooper on the project’s financial implications for the city.

“It’s functionally obsolete,” Cooper said of the current building.

The final detail to the initial plans was what to do with the second floor conference room adjacent to the commissioners’ room, intended to serve primarily as a space for executive sessions. Early versions of building featured a tower-like structure; those plans have been streamlined for a simpler look with a sloped roof and brick exterior that matches the rest of the building.

Cooper said with the design phase complete, the task now is to sell the plan to the public. The current building, which dates to the mid-1960s, is cramped insufficient for the police department and does not meet handicapped accessibility standards.

Of the police conditions, Cooper said the building has insufficient space for storage of evidence. The detainee room has only has one bathroom and no space to separate adult and juvenile offenders. Cooper said he has offered to give tours of the building to citizens skeptical upgrading it.

The largest obstacle is funding of a building that could cost as much as $17 million. Cost estimates by contractor EDiS Co. call for the sale of the sale of the city-owned building at 306 Rehoboth Ave. for $2 million to help pay for the new building. The 306 Rehoboth Ave. building was built in 2008 for the building and licensing department for just under $1 million.

To keep costs down, the task force decided early on not to pursue state funding, which would have increased labor costs because of higher state wage rates.

Cooper said the city could pursue grants, but it is likely the city will issue bonds with a public referendum to move forward. The good news, he said, is by the time the project could potentially be ready to roll two years from now, the city will be retiring debt from a $6 million loan for the Rehoboth Avenue sidewalk project, part of which was used to fund other projects such as the Lake Gerar Bridge rebuild. Cooper said the debt service on that loan is $735,000 per year.

A revamped city hall would see all major city departments under one roof. Police and city administration would be on the first floor. Police offices, Alderman’s Court, building and licensing and the commissioners’ room would be on the second floor. A third floor would be used for police training, storage and future space. The building also includes a basement that houses police locker rooms, records and additional space.

The convention center would remain the same, but a new lobby and entrance would be built.

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