Ash Flat saves $800,000 on new city hall and police department

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Photo/Kim Break The new location of Ash Flat City Hall and Police Department is hoping to be completed sometime in September. Pictured is Mayor Larry Fowler explaining the details of the renovation while standing in what will be the new conference room.

Crews are working hard on the new location for Ash Flat City Hall and Police Department. Renovations are being completed and the project is on the downhill slope to being ready for the move. Those who frequently drive past the current city hall, can see the new location is just a short distance away, so they won't be moving far. Currently the police department is operating out of the fire department and prior to that move, the city was renting an office space for almost $1,000 a month.

Renovations to what is known as the old Division of Family Service's (DHS) building, just next door to city hall's current location, began in early spring. Hope was that the project would be completed this summer, and it looks as though it will meet the deadline. Ash Flat Mayor Larry Fowler hopes to be in and operating out of the new location sometime in September. The building was purchased in December 2015 and informal plans and conversations began to cover what each department needed in a new location.

In a previous interview done by Villager Journal, recorder/treasurer Charlotte Goodwin, said she hoped the new city hall location will have a larger section to serve the community. After touring the new location, it looks like that is exactly what she will get. It will be similar to the current set-up with safety glass, but a much larger section to serve more people.

There will be two main entrances to the building, one for city hall and one for the police department. Due to safety reasons and evidence liability, there will not be access from the police department to city hall inside. There will be an intercom and panic type system installed for any emergency incidences. Offices have been created for department supervisors, including offices for Goodwin and Fowler, which Fowler said will be the first time the mayor of Ash Flat has had an office. Each office will have a lobby and will be handicap accessible.

The conference room, which will be used for city council meetings, will be equipped for power point presentations and implementing new technology. Fowler hopes to make the conference room available for lease to the public for various organizations' meetings or presentations. Another great addition is a separate conference room where city council can hold executive sessions, which means council meeting attendees won't have to wait outside, like they have in the past, sometimes in rain or snow.

One of the most important things about the renovation to Fowler was to hire local contractors for the work and buy supplies from local businesses. Richard's Heating and Cooling got the bid for HVAC, B & B got the plumbing and Jackson Electric got the electrical. Dr. Drywall is expected to complete measurements and begin soon. Arkansas Spray Foam is in the process of completing their portion of the work. "All of the materials have come through B & B and Highland Supply for the plumbing. My goal was to keep it local. So many of these projects are built that none of the people that pay our taxes get to do the work on them, and I didn't want to see that happen here," Fowler said.

The building's structure was in good condition and there was no mold found. The main issue was the parking lot was higher than the floor, so there was excavation done to solve the problem. "We are excited. Councilman Sean Himschoot has managed this whole project. He has been volunteering his time and doing this for free. At our last council meeting, other council members voted to give him $1,000 for his fuel and time. He has put a lot of time lining up all of the sub-contractors and getting it all done. He fathered this thing and has done a great job," said Fowler.

Fowler is excited about the money the city has saved by doing the renovations. "We combined this building with our fire station bond and redone both bonds. We cut our interest by one point and cut the term of the loan in half. We saved $800,000 in interest alone. With what we were paying in lease for the PD to David Jennings, our payment went up $412 a month over what we were paying for the fire station to get this building and the fire station, we are paying $900 a month for the rental on the PD so the city is still $500 in the good. This deal has really worked out great for the city by just asking and getting the banks to bid and work to get our business. FNBC worked hard and we got 2.95 percent for 15 years. We had a 3.95 interest rate on the fire station for 30 years, just the life of that loan will save us $800,000. Money has also been saved by city workers completing the demolition. There is still approximately $55,000 left of the $200,000 that was borrowed to renovate the building."

Ash Flat City Hall has called its current location home for over a decade. "We just outgrew the current building," Fowler added. Ash Flat Police Department has never had a building of its own, so this will be a welcome change.

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