Millsboro council makes progress on town hall design

It’s likely the new Millsboro Town Hall will have two stories when it’s built downtown, and the police station, currently located on Main Street, will move into the existing town hall building.

That was the consensus when the Millsboro Town Council met for its third special session on the issue, on Thursday, Oct. 3.

“They informally expressed an interest in moving forward with a slightly modified version of the two-story option presented by the architect,” Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said.

The council decided to combine the council chamber and public meeting room into a single shared space, and considered eliminating a restroom on the second floor and adding one on first floor.

There was no change to the plan for the police department to relocate. The estimated cost to renovate for the police department is $5.3 million, said Mike Wigley of Davis, Bowen & Friedel in Salisbury, Md., who is in charge of that project.

In August, when the council first started discussing these matters, Calloway said being downtown could make the police department vulnerable to attacks, such as a truck ramming the building, and spoke in favor of moving.

“If police were in the existing town hall, we wouldn’t have that type of traffic. 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 town hall, if I need to get to [Routes] 113 and 24 for a major accident, I can get there very quickly,” he said.

The town council will meet again at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, to approve the final version of the floor plan for the new town hall, and to continue working with Hudson and consultants on the exterior design. They will also work with the Delaware Department of Transportation regarding entrances and exits to the building.

They also discussed reducing the size of the new town hall building by eliminating extra offices that were included in the original design for future employees who will be hired as the town grows. In September, Freddy Bada of Moonlight Architecture in Lewes, who is designing the new town hall, estimated the cost of the building, with nine additional offices, a second floor and two stairways, at $4.2 to $4.3 million.

But Hudson said that cost would come down.

“It doesn’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 last month.

“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.

Bada’s modifications have included bringing restrooms to the center core of the building, so they weren’t standing as bump-outs, and pushing the building back away from Dodd Street just east, gaining about 20 feet.

Entering guests will go into the vestibule, then a lobby, offering a view through the building and glass doors, out to 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.

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 sterile, with the town’s trademark 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 at the Sept. 5 meeting, council members asked for deletions, to save money, and Bada said extra offices can 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 offices 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,” said Councilman Tim Hodges.

“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.

By Susan Canfora
Staff Reporter