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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Bowling Green group convinced of need for new city hall

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Armed with a study showing the city needs about 38,000 square feet for offices and council chambers, abandoning the current City Hall is a no-brainer, an ad hoc committee studying the issue said yesterday.

"We don't need any second opinions. We can look at it with our own eyes," said Ray Fischer, the committee's co-chairman.

Several members agreed that trying to remodel and add onto the 103-year-old building was not an option. Besides offering only about 18,000 square feet, City Hall is plagued with mechanical problems and maintenance challenges.

Former Mayor Wes Hoffman said he would not discount using the North Church Street site for a new structure, but the old building just won't work.

"It'd be nice to have some recognized expert say this building has no historic value" to satisfy the public, Mr. Hoffman said.

The three-story brick building was built in 1901 as an elementary school and became the public library in the 1950s. It was remodeled for city offices in 1976.

Yesterday, committee members got their first look at a space-and-use study of the building that was done by SSOE Inc. of Toledo this spring for $12,000.

The report suggested the city needs 37,847 square feet to ef-

ficiently accommodate each department, with room for anticipated growth as well as four offices that currently don't exist at City Hall.

The study included space for an arborist the mayor plans to hire, a city attorney, a safety director, and the parks and recreation director whose office is now at the Simpson Building on Conneaut Avenue.

SSOE recommended a 2,800-square-foot council chambers - about twice what currently exists - and parking for 126.

Two members said they were surprised the study did not recommend even more space.

"In terms of the way the city is growing, it seems small," said Gary Fries.

City Planning Director Rick Ketzenbarger said after touring several area city buildings, he felt comfortable with the recommended square footage. Several sites had spacious foyers, open areas for plants and artwork, and other unusable space.

"Had I not gone on all those building tours I might have thought the number was kind of low, but having seen those buildings with all those inefficiencies built into them, I think this is an efficient size for us," he said.

Committee members have visited city halls in Port Clinton, Norwalk, Bryan, Maumee, and Sylvania. Visits are being arranged in Elyria and Hudson, Ohio.

Members said the offices the public visits most should be easy to get to on the first floor.

"Customer friendliness in my view is your most important consideration, because that's what you're in business for," Mr. Hoffman said.

Parking should be convenient too.

"Everyplace we've been to, the parking has been wonderful," said Bob Kreienkamp, co-chairman. "That's one thing all these cities have looked at and agreed on. They need adequate parking and close parking."

Mayor John Quinn appointed the ad hoc committee this year to determine what should be done with City Hall and recommend ways to pay for it.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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