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A new roof is needed. Heating and air conditioning is an issue. Plumbing pipes need to be replaced.

These are just some of the problems that aren't going away at the aging Waukesha City Hall, City Administrator Kevin Lahner said.

"These are needs, not wants," Lahner said.

Those needs have the city asking itself: Should it invest in its existing building at 201 Delafield St. or start fresh somewhere else?

That's the basis of a financial and development analysis study conducted by Robert W. Baird & Co. that will give city officials a clear view on where city hall should be located.

In short, the time has come for such a study, Lahner said. The future of the 51-year-old, 45,182-square-foot city hall has been discussed for many years — at least dating back to the last city administrator, Ed Henschel, who said when he was hired, in 2012, his top objective was to develop a plan for a new city hall.

Henschel retired in 2015, but with employees still working in a building in need of some TLC, the issue hasn't gone away.

Eyeing three sites

The city's finance committee recently approved a $60,724 contract with Baird, along with a real estate professional, to conduct a financial and development analysis for a future multipurpose building — one that would combine the operations of city hall, the annex building and the 23,731-square-foot water utility department into one location.

The study is analyzing three locations.

Lahner said they include a facility along downtown Waukesha's vacant riverfront, on top of the city's Metro Transit Center, 212 E. St. Paul Ave., or at the current Delafield Street site.

One other potential site that was considered in a separate study has fallen out of consideration.

That study, conducted by Milwaukee-based Zimmerman Architectural Studios, Inc., on the future of the Waukesha County Courthouse facilities three years ago included Waukesha City Hall as part of its campus, but Lahner said he doesn't consider that a viable option anymore.

"From our perspective, based upon the space that is available and what it would mean for us, it doesn't make sense for us to go in that direction," Lahner said. "There are other better options, so we have moved away from that."


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Thorough review

In addition to evaluating three locations, the Baird study will identify realistic project funding options, evaluate the financial implications of each and identify development opportunities and impacts.

"It's a comprehensive look at all the elements it would take to build a new facility for the future," Lahner said, while providing "a very complete blueprint for what to do with its current facilities."

If it ultimately decides relocating its city hall is the way to go, the city needs to have a plan for its old facility so it doesn't end up as "a big cement structure with little use, for life," Lahner said.

The study is expected to be completed in four months, but how long it takes to act on the study is another matter. Much depends on what's decided.

For instance, Lahner said if the city chooses that the best option is to be part of a bigger development downtown, the city would then have to find a development partner, put together a plan in how it fits in with downtown's master plan and also decide on a plan for its current facility.

"This is the first step in a long process," Lahner said. "We are a long ways away from a building contract."

'Unbiased' approach

The finance committee amended the city's 2016 budget in order to fund the study.

Baird was chosen after proposals were issued by a staff team consisting of representatives from the department of public works, community development, the finance department and administration.

When the issue was discussed by the committee in February, Alderman Andy Reiland asked Lahner whether some of the study could be done internally. Lahner didn't recommend such an approach.

"From our point of view, (we want) a completely unbiased report," Lahner said. "It would be better to have an outside point of view to be fair and present all those facts without any preconceived notions."

Alderman Aaron Perry, a member of the city's finance committee, said that while he doesn't rank city hall as the highest priority among capital improvement needs facing the city, he is nonetheless looking forward to the study's findings.

"My interest is more on the financial aspect — so whatever is the most workable and cheapest," Perry said. "But we have a lot in front of us as far as capital improvement projects. Over the last two years, when we get to the budget, the question always comes up about what's going on with city hall."

Problems at home

This study comes on the heels of another Baird effort that relates to the topic at hand. Baird also conducted a space-needs analysis a few years ago.

In a survey of city employees in 2012 done by Baird, many cited the challenges inherent in the current facilities. Members of the department of public works cited customer service and interaction with city hall as the most challenging aspect of its department space. The DPW staff works in the 21,000-square-foot annex building across the street from city hall. The annex building was built in 1936.

The Human Resources Department cited a small conference room and others cited indoor environmental quality concerns.

The study also looked at various alternatives to address these issues. While the sites included the three options that will be further analyzed in the new study, Lahner said the first study wasn't as complete.

Lahner said he doesn't want to keep pushing this issue down the road because the problems with its current building continue to add up. A $400,000 roof replacement was pushed off until 2017 at the earliest given city hall's future at its current location was unknown.

"It doesn't make sense to drain funds into this building if we're not going to be here," Lahner said.

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