Dover looking at future options for City Hall

DOVER — Dover officials seemed to be in agreement that they’ve waited long enough to address deteriorating conditions at City Hall.

Council President Timothy A. Slavin and members of the Council Committee of the Whole agreed Tuesday night to directly address the future of City Hall during upcoming meetings.

The discussion dominated a meeting that lasted two hours and 45 minutes. It also led council to table action on the purchase of broadcast and production equipment that would be needed to televise meetings. Those costs, estimated at $164,089, would have been paid for with a grant from a Verizon franchise agreement.

But potential expenditures to renovate city hall or move meetings to another location caused the officials to put off the decision on the equipment for televising meetings.

Council and committee members agreed that a decision must be made in the near future if improvements will be made to the current facility, which is located at 15 Loockerman Plaza in downtown Dover, or if an entire new facility should be considered.

It is an urgent matter considering that the council chambers at the current City Hall are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act in regards to an accessible doorway or entrance into the chambers, which features stadium-style seating.

The Council Committee of the Whole voted Tuesday night to have City Manager Scott Koenig and City Clerk Traci McDowell have a discussion with Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange on the potential temporary use of Levy Court Chambers at the Kent County Administrative complex should they decide to renovate City Hall.

President Slavin said city council needs to act on the matter – and fast.

“It was a good discussion and I think we have some key decisions to make about what we want to do,” Mr. Slavin said. “Clearly, doing nothing is not an option. We’ve inherited this problem and now we have to solve it.

“They’ll (Mr. Koenig and Ms. McDowell) start to look at the issue as to whether or not there’s a fit there (at Levy Court), while at the same time looking at what we can do to improve this space and meet the (building) codes that we require other people to meet.”

There was no timetable set on an ultimate decision, but Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen agreed that something needs to be done.

“I think we’ve kicked the can as far down the street on this issue as we can,” he said.

City Councilman William F. Hare said he wouldn’t mind if a temporary venue at Levy Court was needed to conduct future Dover City Council and Council Committee of the Whole meetings — he did, however, stress the word temporary.

“If that turns out to be temporary, yes (I’m for it),” Mr. Hare said. “I can’t see it being full-time or long-term. I think (the public) wants to come to City Hall and they want to see the meetings in City Hall.

“This is City Hall. This is the heart of Dover. I think we need to make a decision about what we’re going to do and we just have to do it.”

As a result of the discussion regarding the future of City Hall, the Council Committee of the Whole elected to table the purchase of broadcast and production equipment which would have cost $164,089 and would have been paid for with a grant from a Verizon franchise agreement.

The decision also delayed the city’s plan on televising future city council meetings.

The Dec. 12, 2016 city council meeting was the last one to be broadcast on TV and the next televised broadcast — which will be conducted by the city — will not take place until at least 60 days after the purchase of new equipment is finalized.

The Council Committee of the Whole also voted to move Council Committee of the Whole meetings to Monday night before the regular City Council meetings.

They will now take place from 5:30 until 7 p.m. beginning in March.

“I have two jobs that I also have to take care of, so I like the idea of a streamlined approach,” City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. said.

The Council Committee of the Whole also voted against staff recommendation which would have authorized the beginning of the recruitment process for the position of Budget Analyst in the City Manager’s office.

However, it was the future of City Hall that drew the most interest.

Mr. Hare was adamant about one thing, “Dover’s city government belongs in one place – downtown.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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