WALKER – The City of Walker has started the process that will culminate in a new City Hall by the end of 2020, according to its mayor.
The City Council approved a resolution and introduced three ordinances at its meeting Monday to purchase the property, the first step in the process. The new City Hall will be located on 4.7 acres, Mayor Jimmy Watson said, which would meet the long-term needs of the city.
"We’re looking ahead for the next 20 years or more,” he said.
“They’ve needed a new City Hall for a while,” Watson said. “It has been talked about during the past three administrations, for the last 14 years.”
The city is in a good financial position now, he said, so buying the land “won’t hurt he budget.” “We didn’t want to ask the people to pass a tax. We can afford to purchase the land," Watson added.
The first ordinance would authorize the purchase of the 4.72 acres in the 13000 block of Aydell Lane. The second ordinance would transfer $680,000 from the Enterprise Fund to the General Fund to pay for the land. The third ordinance would move $6.5 million into the General Fund to pay for the construction and furnishing of the new City Hall.
The three ordinances will have their public hearings at the March 11 meeting of the City Council.
The Louisiana Local Government Environmental Facilities and Community Development Authority (LGEFCDA) helped the city bond the $6.5 million now in the bank, Watson said.
The bonds will be paid off over 30 years, increasing the General Fund bond interest expenses by $241,000 and reducing the general long-term debt $120,000 in the first year, according to the proposed ordinance.
The interest rate is 4 percent, which the mayor called a “very good rate. The city has an A-minus rating, in the top tier of bond ratings.”
Labarre Associates Inc. will be the architect, and Forte & Tablada will be the engineer, Watson said. Labarre is analyzing the floor plan now and everything is in the early stages of design.
The goal is to start construction this fall and have the concrete slab poured before next winter, Watson said, with final plans set to be in the new City Hall by the end of 2020.
Watson and his staff are looking at a building with 24,000 to 30,000 square feet and are “leaning” to a two-story building.
“We will consider renting out the second floor and using the money to pay the note on the building,” said Jamie Etheridge, city chief of operations.
All of the departments now at City Hall will be in the new facility, including the permits department, which is housed in a trailer. More parking is being planned to handle traffic coming to City Court on Tuesdays, Etheridge said.
The facility also will have a council meeting room that will serve as the courtroom, public restrooms, a conference room and a drive-up window for residents to pay bills, he said.
Space is also being planned for council members to meet with constituents, Watson said. It will have its own exterior door to an office, desk, computer and reference material where the elected officials can help city residents.
The current City Hall will be turned over to the Police Department, Watson said.
His administration looked at 15 properties, then narrowed it to seven or eight, Watson said.
Then it was narrowed to two.
“There were a couple we liked, and it was very close,” he said.
The site selected has a city street that will be improved, while the other site would have required building a road, Etheridge said.