City Council will meet Monday in Litchfield's first building to be designed and built as a city hall

LITCHFIELD -- Monday's Litchfield city council meeting will be historic, promises Mayor Vern Madson. "Everyone who is here will be a part of history because Litchfield has never had a city hall," Madson said. The new Litchfield City Hall will ope...

LITCHFIELD -- Monday's Litchfield city council meeting will be historic, promises Mayor Vern Madson.

"Everyone who is here will be a part of history because Litchfield has never had a city hall," Madson said.

The new Litchfield City Hall will open to the public Monday morning, and the council will meet for the first time in the new council chambers that night. The new hall is the first building constructed specifically for Litchfield city business, Madson said.

It's been nearly four years since the city staff and council has had a city hall. The old city hall was closed in October 2002 because mold in the building was making employees ill. The city staff has worked out of trailers and the power plant since.

Now the staff has a new, modern space with roomy offices.


"This is my fifth office in three and a half years," city administrator Bruce Miller said with a chuckle.

The 7,886-square foot, beige and brown building is next to the old city hall on Marshall Avenue with just a parking lot separating them. The old city hall was built as an opera house in 1900 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The council approved the $1.4 million building last year after three years of discussing several options. The final design ended up being similar to a 2002 design.

The city Economic Development Authority bonded $1.62 million for the project. The city is leasing the city hall land to the EDA, which is then leasing it back to the city. The city's lease payments will pay off the 20-year bond.

The past couple weeks, city staff has been moving files and equipment over to the new building. All staff should be moved in by Monday, Miller said.

The council chambers sits just to the right of the entrance. The chamber has seating for about 50 people and room for about 100, Miller said. If there are overflow crowds, people can watch and listen to the meeting in the lobby through large window and a speaker system.

All council members have microphones in front of their chairs, which will make hearing the members easier than when the meetings were held at the Civic Arena. The mayor has two microphones.

"Somebody asked me if it's because I speak out of both sides of my mouth," joked Madson as he gave a tour to a Kiwanis group Wednesday. Because he sits in the center of the council table, the two microphones will pick up his voice no matter which way he turns.


The chamber also has four cameras and a technology room for public access coordinator Lyle Pringnitz, who tapes the council meetings for the public access channel. The setup gives the council the capability to broadcast live, Miller said.

The entire city hall has "huge amounts" of technology, Miller said, thanks to the work of Pringnitz and one of his colleagues.

"I can't say enough about it," Miller said. The technology-related equipment was 10 percent of the city hall project's cost, he said.

There are two public entrances to the new hall, the main one on the north and an east entrance near the building code office. Those who regularly speak with code enforcement officer Jim Tews will be encouraged to use the east entrance. Since Tews is often out doing inspections, the city has set up a phone by the east entrance that will automatically dial his cell phone number.

The new hall has more security features than the old one. Eight cameras are in place outside and in public hallways and are monitored at the front desk.

If someone carrying a weapon, for example, is coming toward the building, the person at the front desk can flip a switch to lock the front doors, Madson said. The building also has intrusion alarms.

"It's just a response to changing society," Miller said of the increased security. There were no security cameras at the old hall.

The city has given about a dozen tours to community groups and government boards the past week.


"Without exception, everybody smiles. I think they're proud, proud of it as a community," Miller said.

The only things brought over into the new hall from the old city hall are paintings that have been washed three times to rid them of mold, Miller said. City records from the old city hall are stored in a small separate building just south of the new hall so that they won't contaminate the new building.

The council has not decided what to do with the old city hall. Some want it to be rehabilitated and used for something else, but demolition is also a possibility. The council decided last week not to advertise the building for public bids. Whatever decision the council makes, some people will be upset with it, Madson said.

"It's a difficult decision," Miller said. "It's not right or wrong,"

The old hall isn't forgotten in the new building, however. A painting of the building by Spicer artist Sharon Schuetze hangs in the hall's entrance.

"We thought we'd bring in a part of history," Madson said.

The Litchfield City Hall is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. An open house will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

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