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Input sought on city hall project

BY CARRIE DILLARD cdillard@paducahsun.com

For the next six weeks, the city of Paducah is asking for the public's views on the future of City Hall on South Fifth Street.

Tuesday, city commissioners and department directors met for a workshop to begin sharing ideas about the City Hall project.

"This is an interactive collaboration exercise between directors and commissioners," said Jeff Pederson, city manager. It was not a discussion about whether to build a new city hall or renovate the existing one, but rather about how a city hall should function for customers and employees and what it should look like.

The group focused on:

n Customer experience, including parking, reception, ease of finding where you need to go and online access to records.

n Functional building and work spaces, including employee work spaces, the safety of employees and customers, and having conference rooms and a ceremonial space.

n Site, including location and the land needed for building, parking, and access to nearby governmental services.

n Image, such as design and overall look of the building, and use of outdoor space.

n Sustainability, the longevity of the building materials and lifespan of the building itself.

During their discussion, commissioners and directors were encouraged to share their views. Two common threads of discussion about the current building were the lack of adequate customer service and lack of security.

Commissioner Sandra Wilson felt navigating City Hall could be confusing for a first-time visitor.

"There needs to be better signage directing people where to go," she said. Others in the discussion felt a visitor should be greeted by a person, either at the front door or in a reception area.

Commissioner Richard Abraham said the design of city hall should meld with its surroundings.

"The current building doesn't fit in. The image of the city is historic downtown," he said.

Abraham was also concerned about security, something the building lacks entirely.

"Society expects a certain level of security," he said. However, Planning Director Steve Ervin felt that there needed to be a balance between upgraded security and public accessibility.

"We need security that isn't a burden on customers," Ervin said.

During a session about image, Mayor Gayle Kaler, Police Chief Brandon Barnhill and Pam Spencer, public information officer, made note that "a metal detector may project the wrong image."

Commissioner Allan Rhodes challenged the group to think about maximizing efficiency and minimizing space.

"There should be no wasted space," he said. "We should challenge ourselves to build smaller than we think we need." By building the smallest possible building, he said, the city would save not only on construction costs but on lighting, heating and air, and other expenditures in the long term.

"Whether we build a new one or renovate, this input will better help the future steering committee and will help lead these difficult decisions going forward," said Steve Doolittle, director of the Paducah Riverfront Development Authority.

In May, the city commission received an assessment report by two engineering firms - Bacon, Farmer and Workman, and Marcum - and architectural design firm Peck, Flannery, Gream, and Warren concerning the building's structural, layout and security needs.

The 50-year-old structure needs significant upgrades and the estimated cost for renovation is $13 million, not including permits, a contingency fund or the expense of temporary offices during construction.

"This is a huge undertaking and a huge decision," Pederson said. "We are determined to get the process done right."

The public can learn more about the project by visiting paducahky.gov/paducah/city-hall-project.

Citizens can provide their thoughts on the five topics - customer experience, functional building and work spaces, siting impacts, image, and sustainability - by email at cityhallproject@paducahky.gov, or by posting comments on www.facebook.com/PaducahCityHallProject.

The public has until Sept. 14 to submit questions or comments.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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