In October 2013, the Cottonwood City Council made a bold collective statement.
The council was no longer going to sit on the fence over the issue of building a new City Hall. There was consensus. There was resolve. No more of this all talk and no action over the need to construct a new city hall.
At that time, that council collectively agreed to swap four Old Town city properties for 9.6 acres of land just across the street from Hog Wild Barbecue, on which the historic Strahan House once sat. That would be the place where Cottonwood would build a new city hall.
Fast forward five years and guess what? There wasn’t nearly as much resolve, consensus and determination as council members claimed was the case in 2013. For whatever reasons, the deal was never consummated and the city continued to do business at 827 N. Main St., along with 12 other city-owned properties in Cottonwood.
Cottonwood still does not have a new city hall, and council members can’t seem to agree on if, when and where a new facility should be located.
This debate has been going on for 30-plus years when former City Manager Chuck Sweet suggested the city look ahead for land, and a plan, to build a new City Hall. Sweet found a colleague in former Cottonwood City Councilman Mike Gardner, who at the time touted city-owned land along Sixth Street as the ideal spot for a centrally located city hall. That’s the same area where today we have a library, recreation center, police and fire departments.
Interestingly, at the time, Gardner’s plan was met with stiff resistance. Community members, business interests and council members alike all scoffed at Gardner’s proposal, saying it was imperative city hall remain in Old Town.
Today, using that always-perfect 20-20 hindsight, the city would have been smart to take Gardner up on his idea.
Building a new city hall in Cottonwood is a lot like our community debates on consolidation and annexation. We are very good at keeping the conversation alive, but we never seem to move past the talking points.
If and when we ever get around to building a new city hall, there will be the critics who say Cottonwood taxpayers cannot afford such a luxury. They will call the city council a bunch of spendthrifts.
In reality, though, the city has held off on doing this for too many years. If anything, the council has been guilty of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. While biting the bullet on a big-ticket City Hall, Cottonwood has kept its ship afloat by piecemealing its services out among 13 different properties in the community.
Cottonwood’s present City Hall is hardly representative of a centralized administrative center for city government. It is hardly convenient for the public. When someone goes to City Hall to take care of city business, it’s lousy customer service when they’re told they can’t be helped. They have go elsewhere. And when elsewhere involves 13 different city properties, are the folks at City Hall even sure themselves where to properly direct people?
Cottonwood City Hall needs to be a one-stop shop. That is something most folks will agree.
Where to put it, and how to pay for it, are questions for which there is obviously no easy answer.