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City on the move

Mayor Don Richards sees the Kinnickinnic River out his window, where he worked on settling in Friday. He's holding a picture of Maynard "Spike" Hoffman -- the city's longest-term mayor -- that used to hang in the council chambers of old City Hall. Debbie Griffin photo

After decades of discussion and more than two years of planning, city of River Falls employees relocated to the newly constructed 26,000-square-foot City Hall at 222 Lewis St. Friday and Monday.

Finance Director Julie Bergstrom said a contractor helped moved boxes Thursday from the old to new city halls.

While city offices were closed Friday and Monday, everything and everyone else, except the police and fire departments, made their move from one building to the other.

City Hall then reopened for business Tuesday morning.

The main, public entrance faces Lewis Street and brings visitors into a foyer facing a long hallway, a window that runs the height of the building, and a stairway leading down to the second floor.

River Falls Municipal Utilities' offices sit on the left side of the main entrance; customer service on its right side.

City employees carried boxes and arranged furniture as construction workers, information technology experts and building maintenance people applied the building's finishing touches.

The council chamber faces the Kinnickinnic River and holds about 100 people , nearly five times the number of people the old council chamber seated.

The new building features a utility room with all the mechanical/electrical/utility functions in one place; computer network and information technology is in another downstairs room.

Natural light streams in the building from many windows; free parking surrounds the new City Hall; most departments have new furniture and a new phone system; employees and visitors can visit public bathrooms on the first or second floor; and the floor plan includes a few meeting rooms.

According to discussion at the last City Council meeting, River Falls ran over its $5 million budget by about 7%. Most agreed that amount falls below what most construction projects would budget for contingency; others questioned why the overages weren't foreseen.

The Public Works Department remains where it is in the north-end industrial park. All other city functions including Parks and Recreation, the RFC-TV16 cable station and municipal court, moved to the new City Hall.

Remodeling construction should begin this year to convert the old City Hall on Elm Street into expanded police and fire departments. That work will include demolishing a portion of the building's western wall to create nearby parking for squad cars. Generally the project will entail reconfiguring the space to create more functional space for the police officers and firefighters.