Ideas On How To Expand Star Valley’S Town Hall Under Consideration

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The Star Valley council is debating how best to make room in a crammed situation.

While town staff wants to add 64 square feet of new office space onto town hall, some council members weren’t sure it was enough room or worth the money.

Since moving to town hall in May 2010, Star Valley has looked at every possible configuration to get more room out of a crowded layout.

Last Tuesday, council and staff hashed out new ideas to give the town’s finance director more privacy, but still serve the public as well as accommodate additional meeting room.

The council directed Town Manager/ Attorney Tim Grier to get cost estimates for several alternatives.

Currently, town hall is divided into bifurcated levels. In the upper level’s main room are two long tables for council meetings as well as a desk for Chancy Nutt, who handles town finances and walk-ins. There is also two offices for the town clerk, Grier and two bathrooms. Downstairs is four offices. Out front a large wrap-around desk is rarely used.

Due to the current layout, Nutt has no privacy and nowhere to protect sensitive financial documents.

In addition, during council meetings, the council, staff and public crowd into the room.

Town staff has spent hours formulating which layout would work best and on Tuesday, Grier said bumping out the front corner on the upper level onto the porch would work best.

An eight-by-eight addition would give Nutt just enough room to keep her work private as well as give her some division from the public when they come in for help.

A three-quarter wall in front of her desk would do both, Grier said.

“In addition to making staff more efficient and giving Ms. Nutt a working space, it also expands out a bit more for council chambers,” he said.

The town had initially looked at expanding the entire upper level onto the porch, removing the rarely used feature.

However, after soil tests came back Tuesday, Grier thinks it is too costly to expand the entire length of the porch. In addition, knocking out the entire side of the building during construction would make it difficult for staff to continue operations.

The town is ready to install a wheelchair lift and remodel a bathroom to meet handicap accessibility guidelines. Grier would like to see the addition added at the same time to minimize long-term disruptions.

Although Grier does not have any idea what the project will cost, he said it would rise significantly if the council decides to expand the entire length of the porch. Building official Joe Janusz planned to meet with the town’s architect Wednesday afternoon to go over the new ideas.

And because grant funding won’t cover the addition, the town will have to foot the bill for any improvements.

Although the latest addition Grier proposed won’t add a lot of space, it will satisfy staff needs.

Some councilors are not so sure Grier’s plan is the best.

“Your up costs, just to come out here to do that, is going to be substantially more than what the space is worth,” said Councilor Vern Leis.

Besides not giving any additional storage or copy supplies room, it would do nothing to alleviate the crowding problem during meetings.

“I personally think that we are kidding ourselves by doing an eight-by-eight. We might as well go ahead and spend money,” he said, adding the town should do “something right the first time rather than eight feet at a time.”

Grier said the interruption for a larger project would greatly hamper staff, but he would look into the idea if the council wanted.

“I am not sure eight by eight, I would not be comfortable in an eight-by-eight, so is it big enough really?” said Councilor Paty Henderson.

“I suppose. Staff thinks it will work for us,” Grier said.

Councilor George Binney wondered what the addition would do to the appearance.

“This is one of the nicer looking buildings on our street and if we start chopping out little blocks here and little blocks here, it is going to get ugly really quick,” he said.

Grier said he worried this project may never go, if they get too wrapped up in design. Sticking with a smaller addition would cost less, be less intrusive and not take away from the façade.

“We have a need and I think that this would satisfy the need,” he said. “It might not be ideal, but we can get it done.”

Councilor Barbara Hartwell asked Grier to look into the facts and figures and come back with proposals.

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