Suffolk Municipal Center Ribbon Cutting
This article originally appeared in the Suffolk News Herald, written by Tracy Agnew. Photos (c) HBA Architecture & Interior Design, Inc.
Published 12:07am Saturday, November 22, 2014
The celebration of the ribbon-cutting at the new city hall building included one last look back at the old municipal center from which city workers have moved.
There was little love lost for the old building among the podium speakers, who talked to a crowd of about 100 — mostly city employees and contractors who worked on the new building.
Workers no longer have to perform their duties in “imminent fear of a wall collapsing or the floor failing,” City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said.
Councilman Charles Parr said he voted “on the crack method” in May 2011 to support building the new city hall.
There was a crack in a bathroom near council chambers in the old city hall, he said.
“When I first went on council, it was about an eighth of an inch,” he said. “I think the last time I went in there, I could stick two fingers in there. The building was literally falling down.”
“It was obvious why we had to get out of that building,” Buildings and Capital Programs Director Gerry Jones said.
In stark contrast stands the new, $24 million building just a few yards away from the back of the old building.
The new city hall contains about 105,000 square feet of finished space, plus some unfinished space for future expansion. It supports about 300 employees, compared to the 135 that worked in the old city hall.
But it’s more than just a building, City Council members said on Friday.
“This building is not just bricks and mortar,” Parr said.
He called it a service center for citizens, an “economic development jewel” and, most importantly, a lifeline for people in trouble through the dispatchers who will work in the new E911 call center come January.
“A lot of times, the E911 operators are the ones saving lives,” Parr said.
The building also includes a lot of new technology, including replacements for an analog radio system that was more than 25 years old.
“To put it quite frankly, everything was just wore out,” Police Chief Thomas Bennett said. Now, he added, “We have the best technology available anywhere in the world.”
Councilman Mike Duman said the building will give a return on investment.
“It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” he said.
A city consultant once said it would cost $15 million just to extend the old building’s useful life for a few years, which still wouldn’t have eliminated leases of private buildings where some city departments worked.
“I think, standing here today, we can all be proud of what the city has done,” said Delegate Chris Jones, a former mayor and city councilman. “I’m just humbled to represent Suffolk.”
The officials urged patience as the project comes to full completion. The old building is set to be demolished early next year, and a parking lot will be put in its place.
“I hope all the citizens of Suffolk will bear along with us as we finish this project,” Parr said.