Town Hall repairs to take at least six months

Aug. 03, 2013 @ 09:34 PM

The June 30 flooding brought on by torrential rains displaced more than 150 families.

It also left the first floor of Town Hall in a mess, and the Town Council’s chambers in ruins.
Repairs costing more than $400,000 are expected to take six to 12 months to complete, which will leave the council without the use of its chambers when the body resumes meeting Sept. 9.
So, town officials have begun to talk with their colleagues in Orange County about using the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road to hold council meetings until repairs at Town Hall are completed.
“The chairman of the County Commissioners (Barry Jacobs) has offered his support,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “I was very grateful for that.”
Kleinschmidt noted that the services center is smaller than the council’s chambers, which could present challenges for meetings that draw a lot of people.
“It doesn’t provide as much space, but we’re going to have to work hard to manage that,” Kleinschmidt said.
The flooding, which ruined carpeting, furniture and the bottom two feet of drywall throughout the first floor, has presented town operations with other challenges.
At least 18 employees have been displaced, many of them in the town’s Business Management office.
Officials are currently negotiating with University Square to move some of the employees into vacant retail space between Time-Out and Optometric Eye Care until the repairs at Town Hall have been made.
Ken Pennoyer, director of Business Management Services, said the move would centrally locate the operation to allow convenient access for customers.
“Leasing this space will also [help] Business Management and the other departments that are ‘hosting’ Business Management employees since the flood to return to normal,” Pennoyer wrote in a memo to Town Manager Roger Stancil.
The town plans to take advantage of the needed repair work by remodeling some space to make them more efficient.
In the council chamber, for example, the dais was completely ruined.
Kleinschmidt said that could present the council with an opportunity to redesign the chamber to accommodate technological advancements made since it was constructed.
He was scheduled to travel to Cary on Wednesday to take a look at that town’s council chambers to get ideas for improving Chapel Hill’s facility.
Pennoyer said in a news release that the Business Management office would also make improvements in addition to repairs.
“Due to the extensive nature of the demolition, it was decided to reconsider the layout design of the business management services area to improve customer service and improve the efficiency of the space,” Pennoyer said.
While the town’s insurance carrier will cover some of the $400,000 needed to make repairs, the town will likely have to dip into its fund balance or rainy day account to cover the remainder.
“That’s there to make sure we have appropriate cash flow and to handle crisis,” Kleinschmidt said of the fund balance.

THE IMPACT

The repair and renovation work at Town Hall will affect citizens beyond the change in venue for council meetings.
Here are some other floor-related changes that will impact citizens:
-- Revenue Collection
   A temporary payment window has been located on the second floor of Town Hall.
   The Town's Revenue Collection services are expected to move to University Square, 123 W. Franklin St., in late August with the date to be announced.
The new office will be between Time-Out and Optometric Eye Care. People making payments for public housing rents or tax payments should come to this location or pay by mail to the Town of Chapel Hill, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514.
  Permit payments made by credit card or check may be taken on the third floor of Town Hall, either in the Planning Department or Inspections Division. 
  -- Gov TV-18 and Streaming Video Check www.townofchapelhill.org/channel18 for the latest government access channel programming on the on Time Warner Cable. Because the town's television production studio is in Town Hall, meetings will not be cablecast live on this channel. Staff members are troubleshooting how tbest to provide video of governmental meetings to the public on both Ch. 18 and via www.townofchapelhill.org/councilvideo.
-- Internal Services
Town staff should continue to come to Town Hall for payroll services, which are temporarily located in the Second Floor Training Room.
Information Technology staff are at various locations, and may be reached by internal users via 969-2020 or ITSupport@townofchapelhill.org.
 Parking
        Because the first floor of Town Hall is inaccessible, visitors who are unable to manage steps should park on the second floor parking level.