Director: Town Hall needs better access, restrooms
by Rick DeClue · News · February 01, 2013

Town Hall needs better handicapped access and new restrooms, according to the parks and recreation director.

Director Melissa Russell made the report at the West Branch City Council’s Jan. 22 meeting.

The report followed discussions during the previous week’s budget work session, which identified the improvements as a project to pursue during fiscal year 2014.

Along with providing the city’s voting site, the Town Hall is used for various activities, including parks and indoor rec programs.

The two major issues that need to be addressed to improve use of the facility are handicapped accessibility and bathrooms.

Russell presented two prior studies as a starting point for developing current plans.

In 2001, Rohrbach Carlson PC prepared preliminary plans and cost estimates for a proposal for consolidating city administration and services in one location. The proposal showed both new construction and remodeling options.

The remodeled proposal covered all levels of the existing building and included major renovations, such as complete window replacement and new heating and air conditioning systems.

Drawings prepared in 2007 with the help of Main Street Iowa showed changes in the façade based on the addition of a handicapped access ramp and conversion of the garage to usable indoor space.

Since then, the city built its administrative building on Poplar Street, leaving Town Hall primarily for meetings and recreational use.

Russell stressed that these earlier studies were just a starting point. New work would be needed based on current proposed uses.

Becky Frederick, president of Main Street West Branch, said her group has already requested help from Main Street Iowa for developing new architectural plans at no cost. She noted that this would not be immediate, since the state group was currently down to one architect.

Options for handicapped access include either exterior or interior ramps, or an elevator. While the 2007 drawings stressed both an exterior ramp and an elevator, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Oaks said that the elevators typically experience very little use compared to ramps. The council seemed to support an exterior ramp versus interior to save usable space inside the building.

New, separate bathrooms on the main level would be created by moving a former parks and rec office to the space created by converting the garage.

This would also provide a street-level lobby entrance. The garage is not currently being used for any purpose involving vehicles.

The council plans, in its budget, to renovate Town Hall in fiscal year 2014, but council member Mark Worrell said the city should proceed as funds become available, doing as much work as possible in-house, perhaps over several years.

Oaks, however, said once the needs are identified, the city should make funds available and get it done as quickly as possible.

Parks and Rec’s year-end report showed total participation in youth, community and adult programs nearly doubled since 2009.

This was helped by such activities as the new Chili Supper/Costume Contest, sand volleyball and the Lunch Bunch program for school children.

In particular, adult fitness and recreation use grew 173 percent over this period.

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