She's Charming, But Age 120 Works Against Her

Havre De Grace Plans City Hall Replacement

November 03, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Havre de Grace City Hall may have a bit of old-time charm and history -- 120 years worth -- but nostalgia is not enough to keep it in business.

On Tuesday, city officials will ask Havre de Grace residents to approve going to the bond market to raise $850,000 for the city to build a new municipal building.

If approved, City Hall will be headed for retirement, possibly becoming a museum or offices.

City voters will decide the issue in areferendum in Tuesday's general election.

Polls will be open from7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Havre de Grace High School auditorium.

The municipal charter requires a referendum before the city can go to the bond market. City administrators say it's the most economical way to finance the new facility, considering today's low interest rates and competitive construction industry.

Havre de Grace administrators want to build an 8,300-square-foot City Hall that will house offices, conference rooms and a 120-seat meeting room at the corner of Pennington Avenue and South Adams Street.

The new structure would replace the City Hall at 400 Penning

ton Ave., which administrators say is too old, too small and would be too costly to renovate.

"Whatwe're planning to build is a very basic building," Mayor Gunther D. Hirsch said. "We'd have to spend the same amount of money on the old building (for renovations), and we'd still have an old building."

Administrators want to start construction on a new, one-story municipal building next year. The facility would be located on a 1.5-acre lot about four blocks from the current City Hall.

"The (existing) building is just not designed for efficiency," City Manager Robert M. Lange said. "We're doing exactly what the people want. They're saying,'Be efficient.' "

If the referendum is approved, the city will go to the bond market through the state's infrastructure financing program, Lange said. The program enables municipalities to finance projects by using the state's high rating to get low interest rates.

The city expects its bonds to carry an interest rate of about 6.8 percent, the lowest rate since 1977, Lange said. As proposed, the city wouldhave to pay about $75,000 a year for the next 30 years to pay off the bond debt, Lange said.

The city will pay off the debt through its general fund, Lange said.

"This project will not bring the necessity to increase taxes," Lange said. "We'll do it within our means."

Lange estimates that the City Hall is about 120 years old. It has served as a library, school and opera house. It now contains city offices on the first floor and a theater on the upper level.

The citywould have to spend at least $200,000 to make the building accessible to the handicapped, Lange said. The work would involve building ramps, installing elevators, remodeling rest rooms and enlarging doorways.

The building also needs a new plumbing and heating system, Lange said.

He noted that the offices above the boiler are sometimes so hot in the winter that workers must open windows and doors, while employees in other offices are shivering.

Lange estimated the city would save about $25,000 a year in heating expenses in the new building.

The new facility would serve as offices for the six employees -- including Lange and the mayor -- who now work at the 3,000-square-foot City Hall plus the 10-member public works department.

The city now rents a building on South Stokes Street for the public works department, costing $12,000 a year.

Administrators of the highway department and the water and sewer division would have offices in the new building, while their staffs would continue to work at other city-owned facilities, Lange said.

The 23-member police department would continue to have its own building on Pennington Avenue, although the new building would be designed to allow for an expansion to make room for the department, Lange said.

Once the new building is finished, Havre de Grace would keep the old facility, possibly converting it into a museum or private offices to help generate income for the city, Lange said.

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