Winfield considers new city hall
WINFIELD, W.Va. -- In the building where Winfield City Clerk Gloria Chapman works, it's hard for two people to move their chairs at the same time without bumping into each other.
"I've had people come into the town hall to pay a bill and laugh and say, 'Is this your town hall? Was this a one-room schoolhouse?' I can't tell you how many people have asked me that," Chapman said.
Winfield's current city hall is cramped and crumbling, she said. That's why City Council members have identified a building on Winfield Road that Mayor Randy Barrett says could serve as the city's next municipal building.
According to Barrett, council members approved talks with the owner of the building on W.Va. 817 across from the McDonald's in Winfield. Barrett said he's determining how much buying the building would cost the city.
But the mayor estimates it would take about $800,000 -- much less than the $2 million to $2.5 million estimate he got last year for a new building.
"With prevailing wages and the way any city has to build things, that is what we'd be looking at," Barrett said. "This building already exists, it's up to code, and we could have it for much less than that. It's a big money-saving thing."
According to Barrett, Winfield's current city hall on Main Street was built to serve as a water treatment facility in the 1940s.
"It's been added on to, and the foundation is cracking," he said. "If you have to meet more than three people, you have to meet in our council room, and if you're holding more than one meeting at a time, everybody is in the same room, and it's happened quite often since I've been here.
"It's an old, old building, and Winfield really needs to move forward."
Barrett wants to put city hall and the police department in the new building, and convert the current police headquarters along the Kanawha River into a community center.
"If everybody's under one roof, the efficiency is much better," he said. "Winfield doesn't really have much in the way of a community center, so the plan would be to move the police station and ourselves under one roof and put a community center where the police station is."
Barrett said his initial meeting with the city's banking representative yielded three potential payment options, each within a $3,500- to $6,000 per-month range. While it could take as many as 20 years to pay for the property depending on which plan the city may opt with, Barrett said he's confident it could be paid for in 10 years.
"If I didn't think we could still be using the building in 40 years, I wouldn't suggest it," he said. "The one we're in right now is almost 80 years old."
Most of the city's funding comes from its business and occupation taxes, which are drawn from every business operating in Winfield. The city has a sizable B&O fund, Barrett said, but probably wouldn't use just that to pay for the building.
According to Chapman, many new council members and citizens have voiced concerns that the city's sewer projects will be affected by the purchase of a new building -- something she said is impossible.
"What a lot of people don't realize is our sewer fund is audited by the state and we have to apply by their laws, and they require a general fund -- that's your B&O revenue and everything else -- but the sewer fund is stand-alone," Chapman said. "The general fund cannot give money to the sewer fund ... that's totally prohibited."
Chapman said the city now has about $600,000 in B&O savings, and roughly $1 million in its general fund. Any purchase and payment plan the city may agree to could be covered in the fund without impacting normal operations, according to Chapman.
The new building, which was previously home to PJ's Daycare, has more space than the city had planned for when it considered constructing a new city hall, Chapman said.
"I'm in this town hall every day, I've been here for seven years now, and this building is so old -- if we have to move desks, or if we try to do anything with the electricity, it's a problem. I'm a little afraid of the electrical setup in this building, it's so old," she said. "There's no insulation, it's hard to heat and hard to cool; the walls are cracking, we've had plaster fall down; on top of that, it's so small we have no meeting room, just the conference room in the back we use for council chambers."
Winfield City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 24 to discuss the options for purchasing the building. For more information, including minutes and agendas from previous meetings, visit www.cityofwinfield.net.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5189.