City Hall move risky but understandable

March 4, 2011

By Contributor

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Moving City Hall from the Newport Manufacturing building, 13020 Newcastle Way, to the Newcastle Professional Center, 12835 Newcastle Way, is understandable but risky. The City Council needs to be sure it protects residents as it takes this risk.

The Newport Manufacturing building is run-down, an embarrassing place for City Hall. There is little the city could do to change the image of this building. The move to a nearly new building may improve employee morale, attract better job candidates and reduce employee turnover.

More importantly, the Newcastle Professional Center is the only office space available in the city of Newcastle. It may be the only opportunity for many years for the city to get out of the Newport Manufacturing building.

The big concern is the cost. It will cost the city $250,000 to move into the new building, and the city will pay an average of $15,000 more per year in rent and utilities in the new building.

Given that the city’s financial forecast shows Newcastle going bankrupt by 2015, the city is taking a massive risk. It will take a very responsible and proactive council — not one that sits on its hands and hemorrhages money, like the council of the not so long ago — to keep the city viable.

The city should only pay for the move with money from its reserves then work hard to rebuild the reserve fund as quickly as possible. Diverting real estate excise tax funds would delay only projects such as street repair or sidewalk construction.

The council claimed the move could increase city services. To delay street projects would be complete hypocrisy, as residents are better served by working roads and sidewalks than they are by having an easily accessible City Hall. The council would be naïve to believe otherwise.

Furthermore, the council needs to be creative to find new ways to finance the new city digs — without cutting the services residents hold dear.

While the move is understandable, it represents a big leap of faith by the council. The council must protect services while building community pride with a city hall worthy of a fine city.

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