Final sticking points of deal to be resolved by city administrator
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — After several months of deliberating behind closed doors, the Marshfield Common Council unanimously agreed to sell City Hall to developer Gorman & Company Inc. for $500,000, pending resolution of some final aspects of the deal.
City Administrator Steve Barg was given authority by the council to execute a purchase agreement with Gorman if he is able resolve the final details of the deal, which Barg and Mayor Chris Meyer characterized as mostly minor, within certain parameters.
In its initial presentation to the city in early December of 2015, Gorman said it planned to “convert the existing (City Hall) building into 40 affordable workforce housing units.”
“The addition of individuals and their families (to downtown Marshfield) will bring more dependence upon our existing and future businesses as these families look to meet their daily needs within the area,” said Director of Development Services Jason Angell.
Gorman will allow the city to retain income from cellular towers atop City Hall for a period of 15 years, which could generate about $1.5 million for the city, Meyer said.
In May the city struck a deal to buy Forward Financial Bank’s Sixth Street facility for $2.6 million to serve as a new City Hall. Forward Financial is in the process of building a new headquarters on the north side of Marshfield. Barg and Meyer said renovations to Forward Financial’s Sixth Street facility to prepare the building for city use could cost between $500,000 and $750,000.
The city has also committed to providing $2 million toward the construction of Forward Financial’s new facility and projects it will recoup that investment over roughly nine years through property tax payments.
Barg has said he believes the city will move into Forward Financial’s Sixth Street building in the fall of 2018. Forward Financial, per a development agreement with the city of Marshfield, is to complete construction of its new bank on or before Sept. 30, 2018. Meyer said that the current City Hall would open as housing in either late 2019 or early 2020.
Forward Financial’s Sixth Street building is about 24,000 square feet, according to company president and CEO Bill Sennholz, and City Hall Plaza is about 70,000 square feet. However, much of the current city hall is occupied by commercial tenants as well as county offices. A 2014 study of City Hall indicated that city offices only required about 25,000 square feet for operations.
City Hall also has a long list of needed improvements and maintenance, which the city has not addressed with the knowledge that it would likely be moving. According to the 2014 study, the cost of improving City Hall could be more than $2.6 million in maintenance that had, at that point, not been done.
Between lower costs to operate what will become the new city hall, maintaining the cellular tower revenue, and not having to deal with the current city hall’s extensive maintenance costs, Meyer said he anticipated the city would come out well ahead on this deal financially.
Barg and Meyer treated the $2 million investment in Forward Financial’s new facility as separate from the cost-benefit analysis of moving to a new city hall.
“The reason that has no bearing here is because that money is being repaid by the new taxes they’re (Forward Financial) going to pay on that building, … so the taxpayers never have to give a penny of their money to that,” Meyer said, adding that the city would borrow to finance the $2 million investment. “The money to repay that loan comes from the new revenue they’re creating.”
The future of existing retail spaces and the tennis court inside of City Hall is up to Gorman, city leaders said.