The Fairland Board of Trustees has been discussing several ideas and suggestions for solutions to replacing or repairing the old deteriorating downtown City Hall.
FAIRLAND – The one thing all agree on is the need for a new Fairland City Hall building. The one thing that isn't agreed on is what to do, or what can be done given available funds.
With little resources and limited options, the Fairland Board of Trustees has been discussing several ideas and suggestions for solutions to replacing or repairing the old deteriorating downtown City Hall. The building houses the city’s municipal operations, trustee meetings, and the Fairland Police Department.
The roof is in such disrepair rainwater leaks through the building and down into the evidence and records rooms.
“It has leaked really bad back there for years,” Fairland City Clerk Cheryl Pelham said. “We’ve called them over the years, and they’ve come and patched it over time. It’s just one of those old flat roofs. It’s going to take money to not only fix the roof but to pull out all this stuff that’s damaged and nasty inside and replace all that.”
Fairland trustees are looking at all options - from a renovation of the existing building, to leasing, and to building a new facility.
“Right now it’s just getting worse. It’s not getting any better,” Pelham said. “We’re at the point where, do we need to spend money and get this building fixed, or do something else? We need to make a decision… I know what the problem is, I just don’t know the solution.”
The current building was built in the early 1900s, and like much of the downtown Fairland buildings has deteriorated to the point of serious disrepair.
“Because water seeped through it’s also caused some black mold,” Jewett said. "It’s mainly the evidence room and the very, very back room where we keep historic files and things like that. That’s the main issue right now.”
“What we want is a building where if it’s going to rain over the weekend we don’t have to cover our desks and computers with plastic just in case,” Pelham said.
The poor condition of the roof and the building was driven home by the latest insurance inspection warning something needs to be done in the near future.
“It’s nothing that’s an emergency type of thing,” Trustee Lisa Jewett said but added the goal is to move as quickly and as prudently possible to get employees out of the situation.
After two formal trustee meetings with commentary and ideas debated and discussed back and forth, a committee was formed to gather and bring in more information and details about each option, such as the costs and feasibility to be used in the decision making and any future bidding process.
The committee met for the first time this week with plans to continue meeting weekly to bring more ideas and information back to the public and the Board of Trustees.
Both temporary and permanent solutions are being sought and considered to find a new headquarters for Fairland’s City Hall. Jewett said design specifications regarding what is needed in the facility would be determined to help guide the process.
Trustees are currently working on two grants, a USDA grant and TSET grant, the possibility of using investment CDs, or selling some used equipment to offset the costs and help fund whatever option is determined best.
“I’m working on the TSET grant, and it goes by the population of your town. That means we may get $2,000, we may get $20,000, we don’t know,” Jewett said. “That’s only going to be a drop in the bucket."
Trustee Kelda Lorax is pursuing a non-competitive USDA grant of $50,000 or 55 percent.
One concern is the length of time in applying and qualifying for grant funding versus the need to find a new location promptly. Jewett said the timing of the issue is challenging because next year’s city budget has not yet been finalized.
“That’s why we’re kind of stuck. Bill Turner is still working on completing the rest of our budget. As soon as we get those numbers back, we’ll kind of know more of what we’ll be able to do," Jewett said. “Until that budget is completed, I really don’t think there’s anything we can do."
Jewett said rumors of a $40,000 budget shortfall in Fairland’s last year fiscal budget are untrue, and the rumor stemmed from re-appropriated funds.
“What it is, is last year when we got our budget, we had to take $40,000 from Public Works to balance the General Fund balance because they have to match,” she said. “That’s all it was. We’re not $40,000 in the hole.”
As far as funding for a renovation or new city hall, Jewett said currently there is no specific plan for funding the project.
“Now, I will tell you, that I don’t have a clue where the money’s going to come from right now until I see the budget numbers,” she said.
One of the options being considered is leasing an existing vacant building at the Copper Mill Plaza from Ray Roberts near the Fairland Industrial Park, but some oppose locating the facility away from downtown Fairland.
Another option being looked at is the use of the City Barn near the railroad tracks, as well as the possibilities for renovating the current building or constructing a new city hall and police department.
Hopes are to continue to bring in public input to come up with the best solution, design, and cost-effective plan.
“I would really like to have the public’s input because, in the end, we are spending public funds for this, and I really think it’s important to get the public’s opinion on what they would like to see,” Jewett said. “I think the townspeople really need to get involved. We’re open to all kinds of options and ideas. That’s really what we need right now.”
Despite differences of opinion on how to proceed, all trustees agree something must be done to find a viable solution.
“I think we’re all on the same page and all have the same goal now,” Jewett said. “We need to just really figure out what we’re going to do and weigh all of our options and figure out what’s best.”
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.