By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The city of Marshfield will turn to a familiar firm to evaluate a possible new location for City Hall.
Zimmerman Architectural Studios out of Milwaukee provided architectural and design services for the new library and community center project in Marshfield and also conducted a 2014 study of City Hall that outlined many issues with the aging building. On Tuesday the Finance, Budget, and Personnel Committee voted to transfer funds that will pay for Zimmerman to assess the viability of the Forward Financial Bank building at 207 W. Sixth St. in Marshfield as a possible new home for city offices
Zimmerman will examine the physical condition of the building and determine what potential remodeling costs — to tailor it for city use — might be. The total cost of Zimmerman’s services is $13,500. That money will come from fund balance within the city’s public facilities capital outlay fund, which was originally slated to pay for a 2014 project that was never completed.
The common council voted in October to authorize a request for proposal so that developers could submit their ideas for repurposing City Hall while the city looks for a new home. Director of Planning and Economic Development Jason Angell said no offers for developing City Hall have been received, and the deadline for proposals is Friday, Nov. 13.
“Given the information that is requested to be included within each of the proposals, I don’t anticipate receiving any until late next week,” Angell said via email on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The Forward Financial Bank facility, built in 2004, is fairly new, but Bank President and CEO Bill Sennholz told Hub City Times that his business needs more space and that he is looking to consolidate both of his Marshfield locations into one facility. Forward Financial Bank has purchased land east of Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts to build what Sennholz said needs to be a 40-50,000-square-foot building. The asking price for the Forward Financial facility on Sixth and Chestnut is $3.2 million.
Conversely, the city of Marshfield requires much less space than its current 70,000-square-foot City Hall. Both city leaders and the study from Zimmerman Architectural Studios estimated space needs for city offices at 23,000 to 25,000 square feet. The Forward Financial Bank facility in question is approximately 24,000 square feet. In October Sennholz said that, in addition to the city, one other private entity had expressed interest in the Forward Financial building.
Zimmerman’s 2014 study found that the overall structure of City Hall was sound, but a litany of upgrades was needed to modernize the building. For example, the study noted, among other issues, City Hall’s air handling unit for its bottom four floors is from 1957, the hot water boilers are “near the end of their recommended life,” and there is no true security system for the building.
The study also found that “the decision to abandon the current (city hall) in favor of constructing a new building or finding an existing building of an appropriate size would take a significant financial commitment. The city currently is in the process of building a new public library that will require bonding and does not want to burden its citizens further.”
“There’s a lot of validity to that comment (from the study),” said City Administrator Steve Barg. “The appetite to spend a lot of money on a new city hall is probably not that great. The issue that will determine whether or not this project takes off is how close to revenue neutral is it?”
Mayor Chris Meyer has said that the city will only pursue a move to another facility if it is less expensive than maintaining City Hall.
In determining a course of action, the city will have to consider multiple factors, including the cost of purchasing Forward Financial, what it can sell City Hall for, what remodeling would be required to make Forward Financial into a workable city hall, and how much maintenance the current city hall would require if it is to be the long-term home for city offices.
Barg estimated that City Hall needs $2.5 million in maintenance over the next 10 years. He added that he did not have a good idea regarding what City Hall might sell for but said that it was unlikely to fetch as much as Forward Financial would.