Fri, May 24

Cottonwood Council picks site for new city hall

COTTONWOOD - Establishment of a new Cottonwood City Hall has always boiled down to five questions: If? When? Where? How much? How do we pay for it?

Two of those questions were answered Tuesday night when the Cottonwood City Council agreed to enter into a property-trade agreement with Flagstaff businessman Joe Nackard.

While no formal action was taken during the Tuesday work session, council members did agree by consensus that the city should proceed to work with Nackard. Further, they agreed to meet again as soon as possible with the city's financial guru, Rudy Rodriguez, to discuss the financing options for the design and construction of a new city hall.

At the onset of the meeting, City Manager Doug Bartosh explained that the city had narrowed its consideration of properties for a new city hall down to the Nackard property located on Main Street just across from Hog Wild Barbecue. One of Cottonwood's oldest structures, the Strahan House, once stood on the property. The other choice was the city's Activity Park behind the current City Hall. Use of that property, said Bartosh, would necessitate the relocation of the Cottonwood Boys and Girls Club.

Once the discussion began, it was obvious that there was really only one choice in the eyes of council members.

The proposal, explained Bartosh, calls for the swap of four municipal buildings and land in the city hall block: the current city offices, council chambers, clerk's office and the finance building. In exchange, the city would receive the 9.6-acre Nackard property. Further, Bartosh explained that until the city constructed the new facility, Nackard was agreeable to allowing the city to continue to use the current buildings for nominal rent.

Establishment of a new Cottonwood City Hall has been discussed for at least 25 years and Bartosh emphasized the need for the city to have a "one-stop shop." Mayor Diane Joens acknowledged, "This has been a long-time discussion."

While the "if" and "where" questions have now been resolved, the city now must deal with the issue of how to pay for a new city hall.

"We have some funding set aside for it," Bartosh explained, "but it also will require some financing and that it favorable to us in this economy and with the retirement of some other loans that expired in June and July."

In addition, both Bartosh and Nackard said the swap would allow for the current city buildings to be converted into retail space, for which demand in Old Town his high, and that would generate additional sales tax revenue for city coffers.

"The timing is questionable," said Council Member Tim Elinski, who pointed to the financial challenges the new Recreation Center has created for the city. "How will we finance it? Can we afford it?"

Councilman Randall Garrison also questioned the city's ability to finance the design and construction, and all the council members agreed they need to have further discussions with Rodriguez present to alleviate concerns about the financial impact of such a project.

Councilman Jesse Dowling agreed with Elinski that the timing is questionable, but said the opportunity presented by Nackard was a good deal for the city. "Sometimes you pick the timing and sometimes it picks you," he said.