FERNDALE, Wash. — The City of Ferndale has spent the last few months collecting information regarding the merits of acquiring the “Old Main” building and a portion of a nearby parking lot on the Ferndale High School campus and renovating it to house Ferndale City Hall, Municipal Court and City Council chambers. The building is currently destined to be demolished after a new high school has been built in the next few years.
Yesterday, city staff posted the question, “Should the city move forward with this location or pass and find another location?” to their Facebook page.
City staff have been putting forth recommendations for dealing with shortcomings with City Hall and the joint council chambers and municipal courtroom in the City Hall Annex building for about 3 years. City Hall is reported to be unable to handle expected future growth in the number of city staff that would need to be housed there. The council chambers and the municipal courtroom are reported to have security issues. Mayor Mutchler (currently a candidate for re-election as mayor) said newly hired Municipal Court Judge Mark Kaiman told him the courtroom was likely one of the worst in the state.
According to the staff report provided to Council Committees at their meetings on Wednesday, August 1st, sources of funding to purchase and renovate Old Main have yet to be identified.
Staff would strongly encourage the City Council to utilize a recurring source of revenue, such as the City’s banked capacity, as a basis for funding. This would allow the City to move forward with construction while at the same time seeking additional funding options that could reduce the impact on the taxpayer.
The city is asking the Ferndale City Council to make a decision by the end of August about whether or not to go forward with the plan since the Ferndale School District needs to know whether or not to plan around the city occupying the building as they begin planning for the construction of the new high school.
A building walk-through was held July 24th for councilmembers. None of the councilmembers were on hand when City Administrator Jori Burnett, Mayor Jon Mutchler and Communications Officer Riley Sweeney did the walk-through with FHS Principal Jeremy Vincent.
Some councilmembers expressed concern at Wednesday’s meetings that more time was needed to make a decision about what is estimated to be the biggest building purchase ever by the city.
Alternative proposals would be to build a new facility at a yet-to-be-determined location or expand the current City Hall facility at 4th Avenue and Main Street.
City staff hired RMC Architects to assess the building and come up with a cost to renovate it for the city’s purposes. According to the staff report, “RMC Architects forecasts a total cost of approximately $11.2 million in 2019 funds to complete all required work.” Noting, “This does not include the costs to acquire the building.”
Some councilmembers expressed concern over claims made by supporters of the recently approved Ferndale School District Bond proposition that the building was not worth remodeling for the school district’s purposes. Burnett responded at Wednesday’s Finance & Administration Committee meeting, “The building can be saved. But the question is, at what cost? Is the cost to restore the building more than what council wants [to spend]?”
The topic will be on the agenda for Monday night’s regular City Council meeting. Council will be asked to decide whether the city should acquire and renovate the Old Main building and, if yes, to identify a maximum price for acquiring the building.
In the staff report, Burnett explained,
The Council is asked to provide direction on the future use of Old Main. No matter the direction Council provides in August, this is not the final decision point. It is simply one fork in the road. It is likely that the Council that is seated on January 1st will be the primary decision-makers on many of these next steps. But that does not mean that this Council cannot reduce the number of decision points. This Council is in an extremely unique – perhaps unprecedented – position to set a course for the next Council to build on.
Poll (final results)
|Should the city make plans to acquire and renovate the Old Main building to serve as City Hall, City Council Chambers and Ferndale Municipal Court?|
|309 total participants|
Note: The poll was closed after several dozen votes for the same response were submitted from the same IP address. Those votes were removed from the results.