Government

Marion City Hall remodel to increase security, hospitality

The Fifth Avenue entrance to Marion City Hall in Marion, Iowa on Oct. 14, 2017. (The Gazette)
The Fifth Avenue entrance to Marion City Hall in Marion, Iowa on Oct. 14, 2017. (The Gazette)
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MARION — Departments in Marion City Hall may get a shake-up to improve security and hospitality in the building.

The City Council commissioned an analysis of the two-story City Hall in April to examine the city’s needs two to five years in the future.

“I call it ‘upset the fruit basket,’” said Sarah Coleman, with Marion-based Martin Gardner Architecture Firm, who met with every department director to discuss staff needs now and in the future, and building security.

Coleman, who presented the analysis to the City Council last week, said security is a top priority for any remodel.

Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said the analysis was conducted so the city could decide what to do with the building at 1225 Sixth Ave. as Marion continues to grow and more city staff is needed.

The study also explored alternative locations for each department and remodeling City Council chambers.

The City Hall building, constructed in 2006, was designed to accommodate the addition of another floor.

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But, Coleman said, “I’m projecting we can make this building work without going to those kind of extremes.”

The floor plan is very open, Coleman said. She would like to see desk space put behind secure doors and bullet-resistant glass.

“There have been a couple of situations police have been required to de-escalate,” she said. “We’re trying to keep staff feeling safe working in the building.”

Another priority would be to locate departments that generate the most traffic to the first floor. Those departments include community development, community services and the water department, which may be relocating from City Hall to a city-owned building about 15 blocks east of City Hall. That building, formerly a part of the water department’s treatment system, is unoccupied.

A remodel also place the city manager’s office in a prime spot to act as “concierge” to City Hall.

City Council member Will Brandt said Marion has had “a very trusting community up until now,” and he was in favor of getting more security in place in City Hall.

The cost of renovations for the front counter could be between $117,000 and $146,000, Coleman said. There is not an estimate for total renovation, but Pluckhahn said it probably could be double what it costs for the front lobby.

It’s a lot less costly than adding a third floor to the building, which could be millions of dollars, Pluckhahn added.

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Coleman also explored renovating City Council chambers. According to Pluckhahn, residents say it’s distracting for people to have conversations in the back of the room while the City Council is in session at the front.

A new layout would explore shifting the City Council to the long wall and bringing the public closer to the council. Department directors would be seated where the City Council is now.

Pluckhahn called this the “nuclear” option, and would provide seating for 80 people in the audience.

Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said in his seven years on City Council, he can’t recall a time seating was an issue in a meeting. City Council member Steve Jensen said seating accommodates 90 percent of meetings.

“In my opinion, this accommodates it just fine now,” Jensen said.

The analysis also included room for the Marion Economic Development Corp. and the Marion Chamber of Commerce to remain in City Hall, which Jensen said was beneficial to the community.

“One of the key things we talk about in strategic planning is an emphasis on economic development,” he said. “They are the economic-development arm of the city, and having them here helps with communication and talking about projects.”

Coleman said the new layout would give both entities almost the same square footage they take up now.

Pluckhahn said any remodeling would begin after the water department moves out of City Hall next year.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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