Winooski City Leaders Say It’s Time for New City Hall

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An old building and growing city departments.  In Winooski, a search is happening now to find a way to solve those issues.

Winooski leaders identify what they’re looking for in a new space, and why it’s time for a change.

The City of Winooski is just 1.4 square miles.  It means things can get cramped.  That’s the issue inside City Hall.  “You’ll see there’s four staffers scattered in here.  Lot of folks in here during the day looking for land records, things of that nature, so it’s a busy spot,” explained Winooski’s Interim City Manager Ray Coffey.  He walked though City Hall Tuesday, highlighting frustrations the building imposes on his staff.  Some of the same issues the Police Department deals with, who are located on the first floor of the building.  “Lets figure out what we need for space in an ideal world,” added Coffey.

At the beginning of the year, the City hired an architectural firm to look at options for the building.  Coffey says their report identified that 35 to 40% of City Hall is unused space.  The study also showed it wasn’t cost effective to renovate, a new building being the better option.

Lieutenant Scott McGivern agrees, “We’d love to add another one or two officers, but to do that, we need more space.  As the community grows it only makes sense that we would also grow in order to provide the service the community expects us to,” he said.  Winooski PD consists of 16 full time officers, five part timers, and dispatch staff.  He says open space has become storage, and facilities are lacking.  “You bring your cruiser in here, you lower the door and you have maybe 18 inches between the back of the car and the over-head door in order to get your prisoners around and through.  If you get somebody that’s combative or uncooperative, it causes big officer safety concerns,” added the Lieutenant, demonstrating one of a handful of safety issues in their current location.

The focus is now on a new civic center that would house City staff, the Police Department, and a new community library.  It would be located on the O’Brien Community Center property off of Malletts Bay Ave, which the City owns.  Plans are strictly conceptual at this point, but do include taking advantage of a long streetscape, and could also feature housing, or other mixed use.  Ideas that would utilize Winooski’s new zoning classifications for that area.  “We went in essence talking about a 25,000 square foot need, when you talk about police and city services, to the possibility of 60 thousand square foot structure which could include retail, housing,” stated Coffey.

Coffey says funding hasn’t been identified, it could be a mix of either strictly public, or a private-public partnership.  And there’s no concrete budget, although estimates show it could range from $7 million to $20 million.  But he says the focus is there, “Regardless of your socio-economic background, your ethnicity, your refugee status, any of those things, you’re comfortable walking in that front door and exchanging business there.”

No time table has yet been set for any of these changes.  Coffey says it could be a year or two before plans become more concrete.  But he says the City will look for public input on a new City Hall focused civic center.

 

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