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City Hall, back to part two

Once this corner of the former City Hall is gone, the Police Department will have additional parking and a secure place to process arrestees. Debbie Griffin photo

Now that the new City Hall is built, open and officially dedicated, River Falls turns attention to its former Elm Street headquarters, slated for a remodel this year that expands both the Police and Fire departments.

"It's really an interior remodel of the building with some demolition," said City Administrator Scot Simpson.

He confirms that the Fire Department will expand into the current Police Department, which will expand into what used to be City Hall.

Each department gains about 4,000-square feet. Simpson said it's sorely needed with firefighters bumping into each other and police sergeants sharing desks.

The plan includes demolishing a roughly 5,000-square-foot area from the building's western side. The administrator says it's the oldest part of the three buildings that were incrementally pieced together to create City Hall space.

The space that mainly used to be the court and council chamber will become a police parking lot and prisoner-processing area.

Simpson said, "The environmental remediation is complete," adding that some mechanical demolition has also begun.

He said the city is checking the year-old numbers from low-bidder Keller Construction to make sure the $629,000 budgeted for the project still buys today what it would a year ago. Prices for labor and materials usually fluctuate in a year.

Depending on what the budgeted dollars will buy, the city may decide to do more or less than originally planned. Simpson said both departments will keep existing public spaces and small meeting rooms, but the whole "complex" will be remodeled to better fit their functions.

River Falls determined more than a year ago that the old buildings definitely needed some updates. A leaky roof, mold in some areas, no accessibility, un-insulated walls (in portion to be demolished) and sporadic repair over the years produced a patchwork complex with issues.

It does, however, have the space the Fire and Police departments need for operations, training, storage and garage parking. An emergency response center established in a basement room of the Police Department will stay where it is.

Simpson predicts work will start "soon" and finish before the end of the year. He said he'd be giving the City Council an update on the project in July.