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INPUT City makes right move with City Hall panel

The Paducah City Commission is taking the right step by creating a citizens think tank to provide input as it weighs whether to renovate or replace Paducah's outdated City Hall.

City Manager Jeff Pederson says the city will establish a small group of citizens and city staff to be called the "City Hall 2050 Working Group." The group's job will be to provide input and feedback on how to proceed, with the ultimate decision resting with the city commission.

At 50 years of age, the existing City Hall and many of its internals such as HVAC, roofing, plumbing and alarm systems are at or beyond the limits of their projected useful lives. The roof has developed sags at the corners that have required blocking off of the terrace areas below for safety reasons.

However, the existing building is also architecturally significant. It was designed by Edward Durell Stone, whose other works include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the U.S. pavilion at the Brussels World Fair and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, which Paducah's City Hall most closely resembles.

Original estimates are that it would cost $13 million to renovate the existing City Hall, which contains 60,200 square feet of space, to adequately meet current and future needs. But the city thinks it only needs about 50,000 square feet, and based on recent cost per square foot of similar local projects, a new building of that size would cost about $10 million to build. Of course there would probably be additional expense involved in furnishing and equipping a new facility.

What makes this a difficult choice is the architectural signature of the existing building. It is unique as city halls go across the state, and the surrounding city plaza and McCracken County Library are designed to blend in with it. If a new building is the chosen option, it raises the specter of demolishing the existing structure and rebuilding something architecturally compatible on the same site, or building at another location and leaving the existing building, with all of its problems, in a state that will make it difficult to market. If the present City Hall sits empty, it will continue to deteriorate and eventually blight an important area of downtown.

So the decisions of whether to build or renovate, and where to build if the choice is a new structure, are not as simple as a mere weighing of comparative costs.

It's also difficult to gauge short of getting public input what the wishes of the taxpayers are on the issue. That's why we think the city is making the right move by getting the public involved in the discussion via the City Hall 2050 Working Group.

Pederson is correct when he notes that, while the final decision will be up to the city commission, it's the public's building. We're glad the city has chosen to involve citizens in the decision.

Comments made about this article - 1 Total

wr posted on: Sunday, June 08, 2014 10:35 AM

Title: Suggested solution

1. Remove the current City Hall. Turn area in to park. Erect picnic tables with concrete canopies for shade and will emulated the roof and support structure of the current city hall.
2. Buy and renovate one of the vastly under utilized office buildings along Broadway for ten cents on the dollar, and renovate it into a city hall. Accomplishes three things: puts a building back into service, brings people back into downtown area, saves money.
wr

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