The Independence City Commission met for a special meeting Thursday to consider options and the future direction for the renovation of the 1916 City Hall and a Public Safety Facility. The special meeting began with a presentation to consider for possible financing for the second phases. By the end of the meeting, commissioners committed to Phase I, receiving bids for the renovation of the 1916 building for City Hall followed by discussion with TreanorHL architectural firm on what Phase II, the design on the interior of the 1916 building and the addition to the temporary Public Safety apparatus facility.

A presentation regarding the options on City Hall and the recommendation from the City Hall Steering committee was made by Mike Borovetz, finance director. 

Before Borovetz made his presentation, Commissioner Leonhard Caflisch stated, "All of this is based upon the $16 million City Hall recommendation by the Steering Committee. There could be other possibilities that could drive our costs down. We will go through this to get a general direction on where we need to go."  He went on to say, he wanted to make it clear the commission is not assuming they are committing to the $16 million and commended the Steering Committee on the work they had done.

Borovetz's presentation focused on the evaluation of the funding and repayment of Phase I and Phase II of the renovation of the 1916 City Hall and the Public Safety facilities project. "This information will be used to provide us with making decisions as we go forward," Borovetz stated. 

Six options were provided to the Steering Committee and through that process the committee eliminated options and ultimately a consensus was presented to the commission, Option A as their recommendation. Option A does come with a cost ($16,125,203). 

During this process and reviewing the recommended option by the Steering Committee it was determined by the commission the $16 million price tag was more than what the city was prepared to consider. At that time the city staff and commission began looking at other options. The commission decided to look at the renovation of the 1916 City Hall as a viable option and a plan of action was put in place. Borovetz presented Phase I of the renovation project which was approved in 2018. "It consisted of putting on a new roof, sealing windows, doing exterior tuck pointing and some selected interior demolition. Phase I went out for bid Jan. 7 and bids are due Feb. 7," Borovetz said. The estimated cost of the Phase I project is $1,287,985.

As an example of the financing of the City Hall Option A project, Borovetz displayed a graph-based overall scope of the project, a $15 million payment over a 20 year General Obligation bond. The primary resources for the repayment is the ad valorem tax and/or sales tax. The current one percent Special Use tax will expire in October 2022. The expiration of the one percent Education Sales Tax first half will expire in April 2031 and the second half in October 2032. "There is a scenario we can look at that would take care of the funding for infrastructure and existing obligations as well as a bond issue. It would be the repurposing and extending the education sales tax at the end of their time in 2031/2032. It gives us the ability to get these things done," commented Borovetz. However, between 2023 and 2030 the city would need to find other resources, cash balances and deferring some projects beyond 2030.

Borovetz concluded his portion of the meeting by stating the importance for the city to have a direction to go with city hall, plans, project costs, timeline and the plans for the Mercy building. "There are bond issues here and it needs to go to a public vote to get the public behind us on issuing of bonds as well as any public votes necessary to extend the special use sales tax and the education sales tax to repurposing them," he stated.

A member of the community, Dean Hayse was given the opportunity to address the commissioner on his concerns regarding a City Hall plan. "I do wish to emphasize the issue of operating costs. Do we understand what these costs will be in the new City Hall and how do they compare to building D? Knowing the answers to these questions should help assure us that we have made a prudent choice regarding City Hall. A choice that aligns with the needs and plans for the future of Independence." 

Commissioner Gary Hogsett took the floor to ask why plans the Steering Committee have changed from what they have recommended as City Hall Option A. "Your (referring to Ysusi who was on the Steering committee as well as Hayse) group came back and said they had a consensus with everybody in favor of this plan. However, it doesn't feel that way at all now. You don't have any interest in spending $16 million. The committee agreed this was the best plan and now they are telling me this is a terrible plan," Hogsett stated as he asked for an explanation. Ysusi informed him the problem presented to the Steering Committee never had a dollar amount set as to how big the project would be. He stated the committee didn't have any say in what the actual square footage was going to be. They were given a list of options and didn't really have good choices because it was so "open-ended" when it was presented to commissioners. 

Hogsett asked Ysusi about the elimination of the plan to remodel the temporary City Hall. "It was the cheapest plan presented to you, is that still a bad plan?" Ysusi's reply was the Steering Committee looked at the operating expenses of the facility and determined the temporary City Hall was too expensive.  

Discussion continued throughout the duration of the meeting with topics such as a comparison of the Coffeyville facility and a proposed plan for Independence, the importance of accommodations for the fire/EMS and police personnel and the possible interest from other architectural firms wanting to bid on the work.

City Manager Craig Whitehead invited the commissioners, "To make a selection and move forward. We are committed to the 1916 building (renovation) and we are going to award a bid for Phase I of the project," he concurred. He asked the commission to consider an architect for the Phase II project. "Do you want to negotiate with TreanorHL architectural firm or put it out for bids?" Two of the commissioners agreed to begin negotiations as long as it with TreanorHL while Hogsett, earlier, recommended seeking the bids from other architects.

In the end, the commissioners agreed to commit to the renovation of the 1916 City Hall building and to consider utilizing the current Public Safety facility with an addition to house the fire/EMS personnel and to negotiate with the TreanorHL architectural firm for Phase II that includes the interior work on 1916 City Hall and an addition to the EMS/Fire Equipment Facility.