City Hall Renovations News Release
OWATONNA, Nov. 15, 2022 – The City Council approved a significant project at its November 15 meeting to update the Council Chambers in City Hall. “We are excited to update this public space to meet today’s needs following many years of considering options and planning for a project of this magnitude,” said Greg Schultz, City Council President.
The purpose of the project is to:
• Provide a convenient, handicap-accessible entry and restrooms that are American Disability Act (ADA) compliant. Currently, the only accessible restroom in the building is located on the lower level at the opposite end of the building from the Council Chambers in an area that is intended for staff access only and it requires someone in a wheelchair to use a lift to gain access to that level.
• Update the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to provide a higher quality of air and increase energy efficiency in the renovated area. The current system, more than 30 years old, is nearing its end of life and is inefficient to operate and maintain due to the difficulty of sourcing replacement parts.
• Enhance building security and safety features in the Chambers. By providing an accessible entry and restrooms connected to the Chambers, the public can enter this part of the building while office areas remain secure. In addition, protective systems are being added to enhance safety for meeting attendees.
• Create a multi-purpose, flexible public meeting space that can be used for a broad range of public meetings and events hosted by the City as well as other agencies. The plan also includes overflow space to accommodate meetings at which attendance exceeds seating capacity in the Chambers to allow attendees to participate in public meetings just as they could if they were seated in the Chambers.
• Improve capabilities to broadcast public meetings live online and through the Public Access, Education & Government Channel with better audio and video quality. The technology will also allow the public to participate in meetings in person or from remote locations should the need arise again as it did during the pandemic.
“The City Council is committed to being good stewards of taxpayers’ investment in the historic buildings that are municipally owned,” said Schultz. “We need to use these spaces in ways that serve the community effectively.”
The City of Owatonna purchased the State Public School in 1974. Minimal renovations were done at that time to repurpose some of the areas into offices and a Council Chambers to accommodate operations. The current City Council began discussing the need to renovate the Chambers in 2015. Funds have been set aside annually in the City’s Capital Projects Fund for the past several years. In addition, $900,000 of the City of Owatonna’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation was designated for this project. Schultz added, “I am pleased with how we have been able to plan for this project so we can preserve this historic building while also modernizing it.”
In 2021, an 11-member project team was created to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the existing space and its current use. The team includes representatives from City Council, the West Hills Commission and several City departments. The West Hills Commission serves as an advisory body to the City Council to promote and encourage the preservation of the West Hills Campus where City Hall is located. Two commissioners were involved with determining the project design so it fits architecturally with the rest of the historical campus. “After considering many factors, the design that emerged does a nice job of matching the surrounding buildings on the campus,” said Dan Gorman, West Hills Commissioner. “The compromises made will allow the campus to retain its status with the State Historical Preservation Office and also meet the needs of the community today.”
Earlier this year, the City Council approved a contract with CRW Architecture & Design Group to plan the project. CRW led the project team in developing the final concept layout that addresses the project’s goals to improve the space and make needed upgrades. Consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office provided additional considerations for the team in developing a project plan. To meet the project goals, the team identified a solution that adds a vestibule connecting to the existing Council Chambers that will provide a direct entry to restrooms and meeting space from adjoining parking lots.
The base project including demolition, reconstruction and construction of the addition was posted for contractors to submit bids last month. A contract with Ebert Construction for $1,626,400 was approved by the City Council November 15. Over the winter, planning for the project will begin and supplies will be ordered. Work is expected to kick off in early 2023 after the City Council temporarily relocates their meetings to the Gainey Room at the Owatonna Public Library. The project is expected to be completed in August 2023. The total project is estimated at $2,150,890 which includes costs unrelated to the Chambers reconstruction such as furniture, permits, audio-video equipment and professional project management services. It also includes improving security and developing an HVAC plan for the entire building to ensure long-range compatibility as well as exterior repairs that were needed on the west wall.
The City of Owatonna is committed to providing a community where residents and businesses can thrive. Known for its strong community, education and business culture, Owatonna provides a high quality of life for its residents. Located in southeastern Minnesota, Owatonna is the county seat for Steele County and is home to a number of major employers. For additional information about the City of Owatonna, please visit owatonna.gov or follow the City of Owatonna on Facebook.