Following city council debate, Providence votes to purchase new city building

PROVIDENCE – After some debate during Tuesday night’s city council meeting, the council voted 3-2 in favor of adjusting previously collected funds in order to purchase a new building to house city offices. According to City Recorder Skarlet Bankhead the city has outgrown the current building and will need larger offices and a bigger staff to be able to accommodate its needs, especially if projections are true that the population will double by 2040.

The proposed building to be purchased by the city will cost approximately $1,075,000 and will be closer to the commercial center of the city. Councilman Jeff Baldwin, who voted in favor of the resolution, said the new building has 8,000 square feet, has better security features than the current building, is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), will have improved parking and will be nearly ready to use when purchased.

The vote came after a public hearing that was largely in favor of the new building. Some residents called the current building an “embarrassment” and questioned its perceived professionalism, the negative image it gives to potential commercial developers of the city and whether it is ADA compliant. The primary concerns voiced by residents about the proposed resolution weren’t whether or not the city should get a new building capable of filling its needs, but whether the proposed building was the best option. Some suggested constructing a new building or looking into purchasing another building.

Councilman Bill Bagley, who voted in favor of the resolution, said there is still room for negotiation on the price of the proposed building, but that constructing something new would be significantly more expensive.

“I think we’re getting an extremely fair price for an extremely premium building,” he said. “More than we need? Yes, but if we can get more than we need for the less price, then why not take advantage of it?”

Councilman John Drew voted against the resolution. He said he felt there may be better options for the city’s money, such as road improvements.

“Do we get a new building or do we fix all of our roads? I think there is maybe somewhere in between,” he said. “Maybe we don’t buy as much building, we look at other options and maybe we spend a little more money fixing our roads.”

Councilman Ralph Call also voted against the resolution. He said the move to a new building is not planned or provided for and hasn’t been in consideration for very long. He said he didn’t agree with others that the city would be able to purchase it without eventually increasing taxes and that the council should be sensitive to the financial impact it will have on citizens.

“I love that Providence has the most modest city hall of any in Cache Valley,” he said. “I love that idea and I’d be glad to come down here and do some of my own work or whatever it takes to make that remain so. I think this move to a more opulent building neglecting the other needs is a mistake. I think we should still budget the money and pay off our debt.

“I’m not embarrassed at all about this building or about this city. I believe we should always live within our means. I think when city owned buildings are way more opulent than the homes of the citizens, that has got things upside down. That’s really where we are going with this.”

Bagley disagreed and suggested Call has other reasons for wanting to keep the city offices where they are.

“It seems irony in a guy that preaches modesty that lives on a three-acre lot in one of the biggest homes in town, that has a big building in the back with all kinds of play toys in, then tells us we can get by with what we have,” he said.

“He bought the Old Rock Church across the street with the anticipation that this would be the city center, and he’s probably right. To have this move out of here distracts from the nucleus that he wanted here to help attract. It’s not going to happen, the center of town is not going to stay here. It’s moving west whether we want it to or not.

“This is something that is going to have to take place. If we’re not going to progress we’re going to stand still or move backwards.”

Call said he gets no benefit by having the city hall across the street from his building. He added that the Rock Church doesn’t make him any money, but that he bought it to help preserve it as a city icon.

Despite having some concerns about future city expenses such as a new sewage system, councilman John Russell voted in favor of the resolution.

“I’m with everyone else,” he said. “I think we need new office space. What we heard, really, is that people here are very much for it.”

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