Millsboro continues weighing town hall, police department options

The Millsboro Town Council is awaiting updated designs for two versions of the new town hall to be built on Main Street — one version a single-story building and the other a two-story structure — in time for their next special meeting, on Oct. 3.

When they met last week, council members asked Freddy Bada of Moonlight Architecture in Lewes to come up with a smaller structure with fewer offices. His plan had included nine offices, but only four or five are immediately needed, council members said.

The council approved moving the Millsboro Police Department, now on Main Street downtown, to the existing town hall on Wilson Highway after renovation, and leaving the town museum inside, where it has been for years.

The current police department will be demolished and the land used for town hall parking. It will take about 2.5 years to put up the new town hall, and another 18 months to renovate for police department occupancy, for a total of four years.

The estimated cost to renovate for the police department is $5.3 million, said Mike Wigley of Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc., based in Salisbury, Md., who is in charge of that project. Bada, who is designing the new town hall, estimated the cost as proposed — with nine offices, a second floor and two stairways — at $4.2 million to $4.3 million.

“Those numbers will come down,” Town Manager Sheldon Hudson later told the Coastal Point.

“They don’t take into account getting rid of the meeting room and getting rid of about half the extra offices. We will have maybe around $1 million of cost avoidance. We talked about having to borrow, but council is not interested in borrowing. We have talked to one consultant about the Town’s debt load, and she said we certainly are at a middle range and not too high. That’s good to know.

“If the Town spent that much for a new town hall, we would have to do some reallocating, but probably not borrowing. Council can reallocate its set-asides,” Hudson explained, referring to reserve funds.

“We want a nice facility, a very attractive gateway, something striking. It’s also important to the town that it not be ostentatious or a Taj Mahal. We want it to fit in with the surrounding area downtown,” Hudson said.

“We have some concern about the numbers,” Hudson told Bada at the Sept. 5 special meeting.

“There is $4.3 million in our budget, to use to build, and the Town would have to borrow and use transfer tax. There is $5.5 million set aside for expenses including infrastructure, water meters and streets,” he said.

When Bada reviewed his plans, modified since the August special meeting, he said he brought the restrooms to the center core of the building, so they weren’t standing as bump-outs, and pushed the building back away from Dodd Street just east, gaining about 20 feet.

Entering guests would go into the vestibule, then a lobby, offering a view through the building and glass doors, out over the river.

“It’s a little more inviting to the public, so you don’t come in and it’s all business. Coming in, the day-to-day part of business will be conducted in the lower floor, the administrative area,” he said, adding that he will meet with Hudson about what offices must be near each other.

“Do we really need 2,400 square feet for our council chamber? Do we really have meetings that are that big, that often?” he asked, explaining he had eliminated 25 percent of the originally designed chamber space and made seating for 200 people — larger than the current chamber, which seats about 50. He had made those changes since August, when he proposed a larger building.

If there is a large meeting, the meeting room upstairs could be used, with video conferencing, he said. He suggested a break-out room for council members, with a privacy wall, restroom and storage, facing the pond.

“It’s not necessary to have windows in the conference room. You want people paying attention and not looking out the windows,” Bada said, explaining there would be natural light.

He recommended monumental stairs as an accent and a bridge scheme with the bridge connecting the meeting room to the rest of the building.

“If you’re there all day, the day seems so long,” he said, pointing out plans for a private area with windows and view of the outdoors where employees could take breaks.

“This also helps to give the building some depth,” he said.

The outside of the building would have a new feel, but not a sterile one, with the Town’s trademark mill wheel accented and dormers at the roof line.

“I suggest using glass. A little glass is not without its problems. You find yourself cleaning it all the time, but it’s more transparent and it’s softer,” he said.

The elevator shaft would be used as a clock tower, with a clock placed high, he said.

But council members asked for deletions, to save money.

Hodges wanted a one-story building, but Bada suggested two levels, and Wigley agreed, saying there might not be sufficient space on the Main Street lot for a single-story structure that met the Town’s needs.

“I don’t know that you want to utilize 100 percent of that footprint by having a one-story building,” Bada said.

“You might want to put in some green space. I do think we should keep a little bit of extra green space there. Part of this is trying to bring people into the core of the town, and these are the kinds of things that give the feeling you are trying to achieve,” he said.

“How about if we scale the extra offices down? There’s an awful lot of extra offices there. There’s a lot of room where the sidewalk is. Let this float and work it into our overall budget. Hopefully, we’ll be able to give the chief everything he wants if we can narrow down the cost of the town hall. I’d like to give the chief everything he wants,” Hodges said of the future police department building.

He called for minimizing the square footage and “keeping the money in the set-aside where we placed it.”

“I don’t think we should borrow,” Hodges said.

“I don’t want to borrow,” Councilman John Thoroughgood agreed.

Bada said an alternative design would allow extra offices to be added later.

“As a matter of fact, maybe we could keep the design the way it is now … knock off the five futures [offices], then all we have to do is lift the roof off and build it if we need those extra five 10 years from now. Then we aren’t heating and air conditioning it, and paying for those offices we don’t need. I’m just thinking of ways to save money so we have the money when we need it,” Hodges said.

“The overall figure is a little scary,” Councilman Larry Gum said.

Mayor Michelle Truitt said that if it’s a one-story building, it will be very close to the road and to traffic. Hodges called for a protective barrier.

“You’re not going to be happy adding on to a one-story building, because you’re going to have to displace people. You’d be much better off building a smaller, two-story building,” Wigley said. The same floor plan would be used, with no extra offices on the sides of the building. Then, in the future, an addition could be built against the existing structure. Once 90 percent of construction is complete, a corridor would be cut through, he explained.

Hudson asked if the two projects could be done concurrently. Town council meetings could be held at a different location during construction, and only offices would have to be preserved, so daily business could be conducted, he said.

“Would there be a cost savings if we overlapped the projects?” he asked.

Wigley said the best method is having the building empty, so contractors could “just come here and knock it out.”

Wigley reviewed five options for the new police station, including with and without a sally port, not changing the façade of town hall and changing the façade of town hall.

Police Chief Brian Calloway said additional costs — or soft costs, such as engineering fees — caused him to worry about cost.

“I want to make sure we all know that big picture — how much money we have to do this project. What’s important to me is the function of the building. The site plan is a major part of the function of the building. … What would the building look like with police cars just parked in front of it? That would be my question,” Calloway said.

At the August special meeting, when the council first started discussing these matters, Calloway said being downtown could potentially make the police department vulnerable to attacks, such as a truck ramming the building, and spoke in favor of moving it to the existing town hall building.

“If police were here, in the existing town hall, we wouldn’t have that type of traffic,” he said.

“If I needed to get to Route 113 from this town hall, I could almost run there from here. I could be there in a short period of time, but from Main Street downtown, it can be difficult for us to get to Route 113 as quickly. From here, if I need to get to 113 and 24 for a major accident, I can get there very quickly,” he said.

“The sally port is nice. Could I do without it? Yes. Maybe it’s something we could budget in the future,” Calloway said.

Truitt asked for a vote confirming the decision about the future location of town hall and the museum, and about demolition of the police department.

Hodges said a vote wasn’t yet necessary.

“If everything comes together, yes, but I don’t think we should take a vote now,” he said.

Truitt said the vote would be strictly for location, not costs, but Hodges said he wanted to see updated plans first.


By Susan Canfora

Staff Reporter