This fast-growing western Union County town is once again considering building a multimillion-dollar town hall in developer Dean Harrell's planned town center project on Indian Trail Road.
The council recently put on hold plans to renovate the Blythe Building, adjacent to the current town hall, which it bought in 2007 for $1.2 million. After making the purchase, the council learned the building wouldn't hold all the town's staff as originally thought.
Last week, the council met to talk about the next step for moving town staff out of cramped quarters.
A straw poll of town council members at their Tuesday meeting showed the majority favored building a new town hall rather than renovating. A second informal poll showed most were interested in exploring a site in Harrell's downtown project. The council directed the town staff to further research the cost and legal issues of working with downtown center developers.
Town Manager Ed Humphries said one estimate showed a 30,000-square-foot town hall could cost about $7.8 million, and loan payments would be the equivalent of a 1.44 cent tax increase per $100 valuation.
Humphries said a building could cost about $260 a square foot, which includes site preparation and new furniture.
A study from 2004 showed that with Indian Trail's booming population, the town could need 79 employees by 2024. Most of the current town staff of 26 work in the town hall and planning buildings in about 4,000 square feet.
Indian Trail officials have discussed building a town hall in the town center project since 2004, when Harrell presented the idea for a town center to Indian Trail.
The town even negotiated a land swap with Harrell that included the current town hall and civic buildings. But that contract later was voided.
The land for the 50-acre town center project has been graded, but nothing has been built. Indian Trail Planning Director Shelley DeHart said Tuesday that the project is still moving forward.
DeHart told the council it was important to keep public buildings in the downtown area, even though ideas such as building a town hall on U.S. 74 or next to the Union West Regional Library were discussed.
“We want to create a downtown,” DeHart said. “To do that we need to stir up some excitement.”
Town Council member Shirley Howe said if the town hall were built in the town center project, the land the current town hall and civic building are on, which is across Indian Trail Road from the town center project, could become a park. Indian Trail now does not have any town parks.
Council member Jeff Goodall said building a town hall on or near U.S. 74 could make sense because it would follow the “activity” in town. But he said when choosing between putting the town hall in the town center or on the current location, he'd choose the town center.
“We would hope that it would spur some activity around it, but we don't know,” he said. “A $10 million building will look kind of weird in this area as it is today, but it could be an impetus for activity.”
Council members also said it would be cheaper to build a large building rather than add on later to a smaller one.
Humphries said the town staff will continue researching a new town hall, and he hopes the council will make a decision on it by year's end.