Town Council members, Wake County elected officials and architects shoveled dirt in a grassy field off Aversboro Road, to mark the beginning of the construction of Garner’s new $7.5 million town hall facility.
The two-story 26,000-square-foot facility, which is paid for through a $35.7 million bond referendum voters passed in 2013, is expected to be completed by the summer of 2017.
It will be located at the same site as the former town hall and will house about 75 percent of the town staff, Town Manager Rodney Dickerson said. For the past few months, town staff has been dispersed in different locations around the town. Town Council meetings have had to take place in the new police station.
The town hall will face the intersection of Aversboro Road and Seventh Avenue, and will be made into a campus that will connect sidewalks to the new police station, which opened earlier this year.
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Sidewalks across the property will also connect to the Forest Hills Shopping Center on Fifth Avenue.
Both Aversboro Road and Seventh Avenue will be improved to accommodate the expected increase in traffic.
Mayor Ronnie Williams, dressed in a suit and tie, thanked taxpayers for passing the bond referendum three years ago.
“What we do today is also progress. It is about the future,” Williams said. “If we don’t plan for the future, we won’t have one. When voters passed the bond referendum in 2013, it was an expression of trust in us. The bond vote reinforced the idea that government should be of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Dickerson said the old facility, which was built in 1975, had served the town well, however, eventually the town staff outgrew the facilities there.
“We got to a point, where we were converting closets to offices and offices to meetings rooms, and we were just cramming several employees in common spaces,” Dickerson said.
He said there were other functional things that also needed improvements.
“Not only will (the new facility) be more inviting, but it will have a more professional feel,” Dickerson said. “Many key decisions will be made within these walls once they are built.”
The $35.7 million bond referendum will also pay for a new recreation center in downtown Garner, revitalization efforts in downtown, dog parks, a new police station and improved sidewalks and parks.
The price tag on the new town hall seen a slight increase over the years since the bond was approved.
Dickerson told those in attendance at the ground breaking that Paul Cox, the public works director for the Town, had found a newspaper article from 1974 that read that the citizens approved a bond for $500,000 to build a new library and town hall.
The crowd laughed.
He said members of the town board of alderman were stunned when the lowest bid was almost $300,000 over the proposed budget.
“So some of the things they dealt with back then, we still go through when we go to bid on some buildings,” he said. “We want to thank the voters for approving the bonds back then and we want to thank the voters for approving the bonds today.”