Potential costs of up to $5.6 million
As Brooklyn Park’s City Hall reaches the middle of its minimum 50-year life span, city officials are beginning to plan for a significant remodeling project.
The scope of such a project remains a topic of discussion, and city staff members presented current recommendations to the Brooklyn Park City Council at an Aug. 28 work session.
Dan Ruiz, director of operations and maintenance, said there are several building deficiencies in City Hall that need to be addressed in the near future.
The city has contracted with Wold Architecture to provide recommendations for City Hall remodeling work. If the city decides to do all the work that has been recommended, total costs are projected at $4.5-5.6 million.
While the city has some funds available in its Heritage Fund to pay for the remodel, a bonding measure would still likely be needed to close the gap. There is approximately $1.5 million available in the Heritage Fund that could be allocated for this project.
The building, which was built in 1991, has had minor remodeling work between 2000 and 2010, such as remolding of a conference room, a customer service counter and roof replacement.
Several other large city buildings, such as the police department, the fire department and the operations of maintenance buildings, have been remodeled every 10-15 years. City Hall needs more meeting space to keep up with a developing city, Ruiz said.
As compared to 1990, the population of Brooklyn Park has increased significantly. The 1990 population was approximately 56,000, as opposed to approximately 80,000 in 2016, an approximately 43 percent increase.
According to city staff, City Hall needs new windows, heating and ventilation work, updated restrooms, parking lot renovations, improved public meeting spaces and updated staff work spaces.
The building also needs to be updated to meet American Disabilities Act of 1990 standards.
Traffic through the city’s DMV has increased in the past decade, with transaction volume up 33 percent. The city’s DMV conducted 52,000 transactions in 2016, and current trends reflect a 10 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.
The city’s DMV services are approximately a break-even affair. The city does not offer passport issuing services, or offer renewal of driver licenses. If approved by the county, these services could generate additional revenue for the city.
“The customer experience, as I mentioned, it’s not the most welcoming,” Ruiz said. “When you come in, there’s just long lines of people standing around. Maybe there’s not enough chairs. The hallway is narrow,” he said.
The largest area of discretion relates to the city’s Department of Motor Vehicle services. Specifically, the city must address four questions that pertain to the DMV: does the city want to continue offering these services; if services are to be continued, what level of service should the city offer; where in City Hall should these services be located; and should the remodel project include a new addition to City Hall where the DMV could be located?
The city’s architect recommends that the city build an expansion that could be specifically dedicated to DMV services. Such an expansion would have an estimated cost of $750,000.
Councilmember Susan Pha said she is in support of building an expanded DMV space. The community sees these services as a valuable amenity, she said.
“I’m … in favor of the DMV expansion … it is an amenity that we offer to our residents here,” she said.
The council needs additional space to work and meet with residents and others to safely discuss council -related issues, Pha added.
Councilmember Terry Parks said that if the city is going to undertake remodeling work, the council chambers need to be a part of that discussion. He specifically mentioned the need for a bulletproof dais, and the need to update the city’s audio-video equipment.
While the state has recently updated the DMV’s software, that update has actually made daily operations more burdensome and extended the time it takes an employee to perform any given task, according to Jay Stroebel, city manager.
Mayor Jeff Lunde said the city needs to contact the state in regards to the future of DMV programming. It would be a poor idea to spend the money to expand the space for the DMV if the state is likely to move those services online rather than face-to-face in the future, he said.
“I’d like to know what the DMV is planning in 10 years, because if they’re planning to digitize a lot of these services, I don’t want to spend money that over time, some of this stuff is going to go online,” he said.
Lunde also said that City Hall needs updated furniture to accommodate for all body types.
Councilmember Mark Mata said he is not in favor of bonding for the funds for these improvements.
“The only way to do this is to go to the people and put a bond, and I’m not in favor of putting a bond for something we should have budgeted for,” he said.
The city should explore if the former Brooklyn Park library building could be purchased from Hennepin County and re-purposed for DMV services at an equal or reduced cost as is projected for a City Hall addition, said Councilmember Lisa Jacobson.
Councilmember Rich Gates said the needs to reinvest in City Hall, and should consider bringing additional DMV services to the city.
“I guess for me, we’ve remodeled the police station, they got all their new spaces and configurations. We redid the [operations and maintenance] admin facility, and we moved park and rec out of here. We moved fire out of here, and this building’s now 25-plus years old. It’s dated … is the price tag nice? No, absolutely not, but what was all the other price tags that we’ve spent on all these other buildings that we’ve done?” he said.
Gates said the council chambers need reinvestment.
Office designs could impact recruitment and retention of city staff, Ruiz said.