Future of Culver’s town hall: renovate or move?

To stay or not to stay was the question of the hour at a Culver town council work session centering on the condi­tion and fate of the town hall, among other topics.

"This building is falling apart," said town manager Dave Schoeff at the early September meeting. "I think we all know that. I wanted to hear from the council about how they feel and what direction we should go."

Funding, admitted Schoeff, is "a huge factor" in the matter. As long as emergency services -- two of which, fire and police, are presently housed at the town hall -- are part of a future town hall building, there may be grant money available. Not so if the future Culver town hall houses only the clerk's office and other municipal-related needs.

Options include a remodel of the existing building on Plymouth Street, which the town began occupying in 1976, or consideration of another property, said Schoeff. Space on the north end of Culver, adjacent to the First Na­tional Bank of Monterey has been discussed in the past, he said, and a feasibility study of emergency services' mov­ing was conducted several years ago.

Research by Easterday Construction into remodeling of the current structure led to a figure of more than $250,000, Schoeff added.

Council members discussed various considerations, such as what to do with the existing building, which was constructed over 50 years ago for the Culver Citizen Press, Inc., and built on multiple feet of poured concrete aimed at supporting the weight and activ­ity of heavy presses.

Kevin Berger, of Easterday, acknowl­edged a remodel of the Plymouth Street building is more economical in the short term.

"The problem we discussed in our group session was, even with the addition we talked about putting on (to the building), you're still limited to a very small piece of property. This may be a 25-year solution, but you may want to think about a 50-year solution."

The "dream plan," said council member Ginny Munroe, for all entities involved to have what they want, carries around a $1 million price tag.

Schoeff said the town would be better served by a new building, if it could be afforded, where the desired layout would be available.

Discussion of possible new locations included a down­town storefront, while questions concerning the north end of town space included whether some residents would find it as convenient or centrally located as the present town hall's locale. Council president Sally Ricciardi said the incline near the north end site could make for difficult or dangerous driving for emergency services vehicles dur­ing the winter.

It was agreed the clerk's office in particular would only need a store front, though Munroe emphasized she pre­ferred to see retail development in such spaces.

It was agreed to allow Schoeff to continue research of various options, both in renovation of the existing build­ing and moving or constructing at a new site.

Also discussed at the meeting was the need for a spend­ing plan for some $600,000 -- and future monies accrued -- in the coffers of Culver's Redevelopment Committee.

Schoeff shared a potential projects list he took to the CRC to discuss, including: $50,000 towards a new com­prehensive plan for Culver; $220,000 for rehabilitation of the current Culver water tower; $75,000 for repaving of Main Street between Washington and Madison Streets; $40,000 for a water plant study; abandonment of the old water main at South and Wabash Streets, $25,000; $40,000 for improvements to the municipal parking lot at Ohio and Madison Streets, including paving, curbs, and vinyl fencing; $114,886 for paving of Mill Street to State Road 17; $85,000 for a new, six-inch water main in the Lewis and Plymouth Street areas; $180,000 for a six-inch main in the Fleet Parkway/Academy Road area; paving of Academy Road to Lake Shore Drive, $36,946; a new, eight-inch water main on Slate Street, at $190,000; a six-inch main at Liberty Street, $60,000; paving of Jefferson Street to its dead end at the west, widening it within the town limits, $185,000 and $165,000, respectively; a new Medallion Cabinetry meter vault, $8,000.

The west end of Jefferson Street was discussed in par­ticular. Council member Ed Pinder noted when he was on the CRC four or five years ago, plans were developed for the area to include addition of street lights, sidewalks, and other improvements, though he said the cost of mov­ing electric poles, at $20,000 each per NIPSCO, was pro­hibitive. Discussion also touched on whether the Boetsma property at the west end of Jefferson could be annexed into Culver, though Berger said he opposed the idea un­less property on the south side of the street, owned by the Dicke family, could be annexed as well.

A follow-up meeting was scheduled for Oct. 16 at 4:30 p.m.