At last, space to stretch out one’s elbows without poking the pointy ends into some guy’s eyeballs.
That’d be one way to put it.
But Algona Mayor Dave Hill needed only two words to express his delight with the roominess of the new City Hall at 200 Washington Boulevard, drawing as he did a sharp contrast with its cheek-by-jowl predecessor on Warde Street just around the corner, where he spent the cramped, first 12 years of his mayorship.
Indeed, it seems everything about the $5 million, 10,000-square-foot, two-story structure with all the fancy audio-visual equipment merits an exclamation point, from its ground-floor community center to its second-floor offices, from its conference rooms to its council chamber.
And most of it, Algona’s City officials could only dream of until now.
“We’re going to have a community kitchen in the community center, so people can come and cook and have parties. The old one was like a hallway that nobody used. We’ve got several rooms downstairs dedicated to different projects. We’re partnering with Comcast, and it has dedicated 11 new computers for our computer room downstairs,” Hill said.
One of the community center’s windowed walls rolls up for summer events and such. Starting in July, Hometown Community Services arrives to be an anchor tenant, said City Administrator Diana Quinn.
“They’ll start serving lunches to seniors, youth, whoever, and they’ll have different programs. We’re going to have a pool table downstairs. We’ll have two Xboxes donated to us. We’ll have a foosball table that was donated to us, and a donated piano. We’ll have a little stage down there so we can have entertainment come in. There is a big screen that comes down from the ceiling, and a projector so we can show movies,” Quinn said.
“We are also working with the YMCA to have them do some exercise classes, or whatever they think is a good idea for our people. The library system is going to be working with them, hopefully doing some tutoring of our youth and storytelling, that type of thing. There’ll be a little bit of everything,” Hill said.
The City’s official emblem, the blue heron, shows up in motifs everywhere, like the honest-to-goodness, bona-fide mayor’s office – a far cry from the nano-office in a trailer, which anyone who wanted to enter the old City Hall had to walk through – and a City Council Chamber outfitted with a large, drop-down screen and the latest in sound systems and lighting.
“I was in a trailer out back of City Hall,” Hill said of his former digs. “We didn’t have any really good meeting rooms other than my office. What happened is that I pretty much lost my office to a conference room, and we could only hold six-to-eight people in the conference room, max. Now we’ve got a big, beautiful conference room off my office and off the City Council chambers and off a hallway so people can find any number of different ways to get there. We’ve a got a conference room on the other side of the building that overlooks the park.”
Ladders and dangling fixtures and boxes and floors devoid of chairs and an elevator that doesn’t yet work tell you the building is not finished yet, but completion day is at hand, according to the contractor, Cutler-Lewis.
Algona’s frugal mayor also speaks with pride about how the City paid for the project.
How it squirreled away $1 million in the teeth of the Big Recession;
How it applied for, and got, two $125,000 grants from the state of Washington to complete design and engineering;
How it borrowed $3 million at 2.47 percent interest, the first debt the city has taken on in a long time, and which it expects to pay it off in the next 10 years.
And how it sold a number of 10- year bonds.
“As a matter of fact, they offered us more money, but they expected us to pay ’em back, and we didn’t want to take on more than we knew we knew we could handle,” Hill said of the bonding company.
Hill and Quinn began dreaming 12 years ago, first of an affordable, barn-like structure for a community center. The City solicited input from the public. And over time, plans changed.
For a small town like Algona, this is a great … big … deal.
“There’s so much stuff we put into thinking this out,” Hill said. “Every room has its own high-tech, energy-efficient, HVAC system, which I think I’d have to get an engineer or an architect to explain. We did come in under silver Leeds, which we didn’t think we would actually obtain. We tried to design it as best we could for 50 years without any major remodels, and for a little city like this, that’s a terrific investment. And yeah, this feels like a mayor’s office here and conference rooms. Plus, we’ve got a lot of open space, so that our employees don’t feel like they’re working in a dungeon any more. It’s kind of like being glad to get rid of a toothache.”
“It’s awesome. To me it’s like a statement for the community,” said Gary Klein, the City’s events coordinator.