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Give City Hall a face-lift?
Monroe City Hall is 50 years old but is structurally sound. Still, the city of Monroe is looking at remodeling options that would make the front of the building more accessible and visitor-friendly. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - The city of Monroe will solicit public input as it considers potential options to remodel City Hall to make the building more accessible and visitor-friendly.

The council hired McGowan Architects of New Glarus to study the existing building and develop plans for a possible renovation. Architect Patrick McGowan presented the report, prepared by himself and Mike Hein of Hein Engineering Group of Madison, to council members in July.

The next step will be to host a series of open houses so residents can tour City Hall to get a better idea of the existing structure and what is needed.

At Tuesday's common council meeting, City Administrator Phil Rath recommended the common council host a series of events at different times, including weekends, as a starting point to solicit public opinion.

Cory Roe, sitting in the audience, agreed getting public input is key.

City Hall is a building for the people, and "the more people involved in the process, the better," he told the council. He also encouraged council members to take information to local festivals to help disseminate information about the project.

Council members agreed to begin scheduling some dates for open houses.

The cost of renovation options range from less than $400,000 to more than $2.23 million, depending on the option. Rath said if a building project is financed for more than 10 years, it would need to go to referendum. If it is financed for 10 years or less, a referendum is not required.

Here's an initial overview of the problems with the existing building and possible solutions:

The Building

City Hall is a 50-year-old, single-story building with a basement. It is physically attached to the Monroe Fire Department and the Monroe Police Department. Each is a separate building, with fire walls in between each structure. Despite its age, City Hall is structurally sound and was determined to be in good shape.

The Need

Sidewalks and stairs at the front of City Hall are deteriorating, creating a safety hazard. The concrete pad between the stairs and the top of the steps is uneven and sloped, which creates a tripping hazard. The deterioration, coupled with the design of the building, makes maintenance cumbersome and time-consuming. Replacing this infrastructure allows the city to develop a clearly identifiable and accessible main entrance to the building and address other problems with the building layout.

These issues are:

The main entrance: The building currently has five front entrances, which can be confusing to people visiting City Hall. Only one of these front entrances, the basement entrance to the Recreation Department on the north side of the building, is handicapped accessible. Currently, people who need an accessible first-floor entrance must enter in the back.

Improving security and visitor access: The building has limited security measures in place. Once visitors enter the building, they can wander freely throughout the building. This poses safety concerns. Because there is no clear point of entry, visitors are confused about where they should go to conduct business. There is a lack of wayfinding cues for visitors; the few signs in place are too small to provide guidance. City workers in their offices are frequently interrupted to help constituents find their way.

Better use of council chambers: People enter council chambers directly from outside into the middle of the room. This creates disruptions and distractions. The room has a fixed layout due to a platform where council members sit. This platform is separated from the rest of the room by a decorative railing. The layout limits effective seating arrangements for council meetings and makes presentations difficult for both council members and the audience to hear and see.

HVAC improvements: The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system includes components that range from just a few years to 50 years old. System controls are disjointed and outdated, and repairs are needed. The temperature in offices are difficult to control.

The Options

Option 1: Reconstruct exterior stairs and construct new exterior ramps. Add canopy at Recreation Department entrance.

Option 2: Enclose exterior stairs and construct new exterior ramps. Add canopy at Recreation Department entrance.

Option 3: Construct new lobby with interior stairs and an elevator. The elevator provides access to both the basement and the first floor.

Option 3A: Same as Option 3, and additionally would enlarge common council chambers

Option 4: Construct a new lobby with interior stairs, an elevator and public restrooms. The elevator provides access to both basement and the first floor.

The Estimated Costs

Replacing existing infrastructure: $70,000 to $97,000

Option 1: $391,000 to $532,000

Option 2: $975,000 to $1.2 million

Option 3: $1.31 to $1.51 million

Option 3A: $858,000 to $980,000

Option 4: $1.95 million to $2.23 million