By Kellen Olshefski

Correspondent

The City of Elkhorn Common Council voted 5-0 in favor of selecting Kehoe-Henry & Associates as a design services consultant for the construction of a new City Hall Monday night after determining the majority of the Council would still like to proceed with the project.

At the meeting, the Council first discussed whether or not to continue moving forward with the construction of a new City Hall, with Alderman Tim Shiroda expressing concerns about adding to the City’s debt.

Shiroda said after last week’s financial planning meeting, he doesn’t feel that the plan to pay interest only on the project over the first four years is a fiscally responsible idea for funding the project. Additionally, Shiroda said, he’d rather see debt declining than keep it level.

Alderman Scott McClory said he’s “100 percent in favor” of a new City Hall, something he’s supported for many years. Mayor Howie Reynolds agreed, noting safety concerns that were raised during flooding in previous years that caused a mold outbreak in the basement of the current City Hall.

“You couldn’t even have people in the basement because the mold level was so high,” he said.

Finance Director Jim Heilman said that as far the financial plan, he could look at other options but by only paying interest on the project over the first four years, it would help to keep the debt level from spiking and ease the burden on taxpayers.

City Administrator Sam Tapson noted that while a declining debt level would be ideal, it’s something that’s not entirely possible in today’s climate.

“Simply because you’ll never do any more projects – whether it be streets, this building or anything else – because you’re never going to be in a position with ready cash,” he said. “Not in the environment we’re in. It’s just not going to happen.”

While Shiroda said he’s concerned moving forward would prevent the City from completing other projects in the future, McClory noted the water treatment plant, another expensive project the City completed, but one that the City both knew was coming and had to be completed.

“It’s been arguably our No. 1 project we’ve been discussing for the past two years,” McClory said. “In my opinion, it’s still the top (Capital Improvement Project) for 2020, 2021, and we can’t kick the can down the road anymore on this one.”

Tapson said in a 2014 survey conducted amongst City staff, employees and the Council at that time selected a new City Hall as the No. 2 project among a list of 30-plus projects, putting it only behind the new water treatment plant in the priority list.

“You’re now five years out from that and it’s still here,” Tapson said.

Ultimately, four out of the five councilmembers in attendance were in favor of moving forward, with Shiroda voting against it and Ron Dunwiddie absent from Monday’s meeting.

In selecting a design services consultant, a motion to select Zimmerman Architectural Studios once again failed to garner a second, leaving the motion dead in the water.

A motion shortly thereafter to select Kehoe-Henry & Associates was then passed 5-0 by the Council.

 
 

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