TOP STORY: Aldermen vote to build new city hall




CELINA-Aldermen voted unanimously to construct a new city hall on city-owned property just off the square at their December meeting last week. 


City officials had been weighing options since they took office in July, after the former building housing city hall and the Clay County Rescue Squad was destroyed by fire just three days following the city election in June. 


Vice-mayor Donnie Long and fellow aldermen Joey Locke and Don Haston voted to accept a $549,230 “turnkey design price” from Maffett-Bouton & Associates, an architecture and engineering firm in Cookeville. 


The vote came following a presentation by the firm, and after a brief financial report on the building possibilities by city recorder Donna Watson. 


Officials had considered buying the former Crow’s Nest restaurant building and renovating it, but it was reported at the meeting that renovation costs could reach $325,000, in addition to the initial purchase price. 


An insurance settlement on the old building of $465,337 has been received by the city. The city also voted to award a requested $28,065 to the Rescue Squad from that settlement on the building, and the city will also retire an approximate $21,000 debt on the old structure.


The city is also anticipating receiving what could be a minimum $150,000 grant from the federal government that would be used toward the new city hall construction. 


After all those situations are dealt with, city officials say, the remaining funds would be within just a few thousand dollars of Maffett-Bouton’s price, which a company spokesman said at the meeting contained some estimates that could possibly be trimmed. 


After that report and the presentation by Maffett-Bouton, alderman Locke said: “According to the figures, I say we build.” Locke made that motion, and for Maffett-Bouton to handle the process, and the aldermen all voted yes. 


The Maffett spokesman said the firm would be in charge of inspection during the construction process, and would also handle the bid process if the city wanted them to. 


Before all that, mayor Willie Kerr had pointed out the insurance company, which is paying the rent on the temporary city hall, “won’t pay for us to stay here forever and ever. They want a date.”


Officials say the grant application and awarding process could be up to six months, and construction of the new structure could be another six months. 


The proposed building would be 3,800 square feet, and would be constructed on the city land beside the ambulance service/fire hall, just off the northwest side of the square. 


The proposed single-story building would house city hall and the city police department under one roof, with separate entrances. There would be a drive-thru window on the east side of the building, a paved public parking lot in the front and a graveled city vehicle parking area in the back. 


As mentioned above, aldermen also voted to give just over $28,000 of the insurance settlement money to the Rescue Squad, which was also formerly housed in the same building as city hall. 


The Rescue Squad also received a recent land donation from the Rogers Group at the old quarry site at the entrance to River Road to construct a new building on. The squad plans on constructing a 50 x 100-foot building on that land, just off the bypass. 


City officials also discussed whether or not to continue to provide ambulance service to the county past the current contract, which would expire around the middle of next year. 


Officials discussed several possibilities on making the service more profitable. Among them were: buying software that would allow billing to be done in-house, saving several thousands of dollars annually, making a change to have a full-time director to handle that billing and scheduling, and re-establishing a city ambulance service committee to oversee the service. 


County mayor Dale Reagan and ambulance service committee chairman  Timmie Scott of the county commission were in attendance at the meeting.


“The county has no complaints with the job you’ve been doing” with the ambulance service, Reagan said. Scott said the county committee would meet again in January to further discuss the situation, and city officials will review the matter after that.