Discussion set on plans for new Dewey town hall

Leaders to determine budget, size, parking spaces, exterior design June 2
May 30, 2023

After discussion at two previous monthly meetings, Dewey commissioners have planned a Friday, June 2 public workshop to set the budget, maximum building height and square footage, parking and exterior design for the proposed new town hall. 

In April, commissioners reviewed initial designs for the facility, estimated at $8.6 million, including about $1 million for an EMS unit that would be funded by the county if they decide to house a station in the building. 

At the time, commissioners asked for revised plans that would cut 3,000 square feet and $1 million from the plans.

On May 19, commissioners reviewed a revised plan submitted by architect GMB that reduced the initial design by $300,000 and 1,100 square feet.

Town Manager Bill Zolper said each department head is unhappy with the revised plan’s smaller layout, and officials need to plan for the future. Dewey Beach is no longer a June to August town, he said.

“Dewey Beach has been operating for too long in an unacceptable space in the town hall,” he said.

Police Chief Constance Speake said the initial design was more functional. In the new design, the police department is split between two separate floors, cells are placed in between police and administrative areas, she said, and evidence is housed in an area separate from detectives.

Zolper said the administrative and police departments work as a team, but need separation. Officers conducting investigations need a secure area where people can’t see or hear what they are working on.

Officers carry weapons and will have prisoners who shouldn’t have access to the administrative side of the building, said Zolper, noting he wasn’t sure how much more square footage could be reduced if officials want the building to serve the town for the next 20 years. 

A proposed basement parking area could be eliminated, Zolper said, but both he and Speake felt the area is necessary for employees as well as officials from outside agencies, such as the fire marshal and other police departments, that assist the town.

Commissioners said they wanted a large, welcoming lobby for both the town hall and administrative sides, space which Zolper said could be used more effectively.

Commissioner Gary Persinger said the layout of the building is three times the size of the current building. It’s problematic that 3,000 square feet can’t be cut out, he said, stating that offices could be smaller or removed.

“I just don’t accept that this is the absolute minimum space needed,” he said.

GMB architect Deane Townsend said the design for the town hall has been compressed since original renderings were made to comply with town setback requirements. Interior designs were also not shown at the May 2022 meeting, he said.

Prices have also risen since the original estimate of $250 per square foot, Mayor Bill Stevens said.

Commissioner Elisabeth Gibbings said she did not want to be so cautious in preparing for the future that they plan something inefficient for the town’s needs.

An open lobby is important for residents to be able to conduct town business, Stevens said, noting he saw no excess in the designs.

Right now, the town has $5.1 million in hand, Stevens said, and the county must provide $1 million to have an EMS station in the building.

We’ll figure out how to pay for it, Stevens said, and some debt may be needed, as was the case with the Bayard Avenue pump station. 

Commissioner David Jasinski proposed a public workshop to determine the design, budget and how the facility will be paid for. Commissioner Paul Bauer agreed, stating the town is spending money on design revisions that he’d rather see used for construction.

The public workshop is set for 3 p.m., Friday, June 2, at the Lifesaving Station.


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