Oshkosh eyes replacement plan for City Hall

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Does Oshkosh need a new City Hall?

Not right away, but the city may hire a consultant–at a cost of $30,000 or more–to find out if it should start looking for a new home for municipal workers.

The idea of considering the possibility of a new City Hall has been floated by Deputy Mayor Steve Herman.

“There are departments at City Hall that are crammed into pretty small spaces,” Herman said. For the time being, City Hall is fine, but things could change over the next five to 15 years, he said. “I believe in looking down the line.”  

City Manager Mark Rohloff will be asking the Common Council this week agree to pay for a space needs assessment on the building, which he says is in pretty good shape structurally.

Such a study would be part of larger review of city facilities. While the city has been monitoring other buildings that it owns, “the three general areas that have not been looked at are City Hall, [the]Public Safety [Building] and firehouses,” Rohloff said.

For fire and police, the first step will be staffing studies, which Rohloff expects to happen later this year. These will help determine whether new or modified facilities will be needed.  Space needs studies are expected to be completed in 2019 for fire and police.

“The City Hall facility is something that hasn’t been evaluated in a very long time,” Rohloff said. “It’s probably something like 20 years.”

Outside consultants would “meet with all the departments that are housed in City Hall and say, “Where do you see yourself being in 20 years, size-wise, number of people-wise, the services you provide?’” Rohloff said. “And then they’ll take a look and say, ‘OK, based on this over the next 20 years, here are your potential needs.’”  

If it looks like the city will need a relatively small amount of space, the situation could be addressed by leasing space in a private building. If the space needs are great, it may make sense to build, Rohloff said.

City Hall is just over a century old. It was designed by William Waters and Henry Auler in the Neoclassical Revival Style and spent the first 45 years of its life, starting in 1916, as Oshkosh High School. It once opened onto Algoma Boulevard.

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Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

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