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Cloquet proposes city hall redesign plan

Anyone working the counter at Cloquet City Hall during sunny afternoons might feel that the building was designed more for fashion than function. While natural light from the atrium windows is nice, it often shines directly into the receptionist'...

Anyone working the counter at Cloquet City Hall during sunny afternoons might feel that the building was designed more for fashion than function.

While natural light from the atrium windows is nice, it often shines directly into the receptionist's eyes, making it difficult to work on the computer and deal with customers, according to Brian Fritsinger, Cloquet city administrator.

Although it is one of the minor annoyances, that plus mechanical and space issues have prompted the city to request proposals from LHB in Duluth for revamping the building to better suit city employees.

"In the last eight years, I've been getting a handle on how we function as a city and at city hall and the building is not really laid out well for our work," Fritsinger said. "We're adding an economic developer and a city engineer and there's no room for expansion. We need to make some adjustments for them and in speaking with city hall employees about increasing workloads [due to community needs], we need to [figure out how] to best provide those services going into the future."

At Tuesday's city council working session, councilors reviewed both a short-term and long-term plan for the building. The short-term plan, which is needed soon due to the hiring of additional staff, includes demolishing and remodeling the current administrative office space including new ceilings and floors. In the engineering office space, a wall would be taken out to create a temporary shared office space and one of the conference rooms would be remodeled into more workspace for that department.

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Due to the high noise level generated by the heating and cooling system in the building, it would be re-done as well. A technology room would be added in the basement to house computer servers and other technology. The short-term space plan estimated cost comes in at nearly $100,000 with funds likely to come from the capital projects budget.

The long-term space plan, which includes additional work encompassing the entire building, to complement the short-term plan, would cost roughly $260,000. In that plan, a second reception area would be created to help facilitate the purchase of permits and other city licenses.

"As it is now, the receptionist in that area has to go through two doors in order to help someone," Fritsinger said. "It's not customer-friendly."

All of the work would include meeting ADA regulations as well.

Fourteen people currently work in the city hall building with two more to be added this year, according to Fritsinger.

Councilors agreed to revisit the budget for 2008 and see where funds could possibly be reallocated to get at least the short-term project work done.

Fritsinger will also check into whether it makes more sense to do the projects in one phase instead of two.

"I think this is something we need to do and we need to move forward and I would also like to see some [further] security measures in the building," said Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren.

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