City may lease-to-buy a city hall

The option would ultimately be more expensive, but offsetting the purchase of land in order to make a down payment for a new city hall may be the solution to city staff’s cramped quarters.

The newest direction the city has taken toward constructing a new city hall likely would have a developer buy land, build a building and lease it to the city over a period of time to allow the city to buy the building and land.

For now, the Sequim City Council only has directed capital projects manager Frank Needham to draft a request for qualifications, which is sent out to developers who in turn respond with why they are the best candidate for the job.

Needham will draft two requests, one for a city hall and a separate document for a new police department.

“This design-built and lease-back option can be very successful,” City Councilor Ken Hays said, indicating it removes front-end costs. “I see this as a competition. We have to be organized in order to get the best responses from interested developer-landowner teams.”

Hays will be working with Needham to draft the requests as Hays has 30 years’ experience as an architect responding to similar documents. The pair will bring back a draft request for council to approve during its Aug. 4 study session, which is held at 9 a.m. in the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

The city’s staff is spread across Sequim. The city hall at 152 W. Cedar St. is much too small to house the entire staff, much less the administrative staff it presently houses. The Planning and Public Works Department is leasing space on North Fifth Avenue and the Sequim Police Department is wedged in the corner of the J.C. Penney shopping center, divided between storefronts converted into a police station.

Soeren Poulsen, a computer forensics technician with the department, echoed many of Sequim Police Chief and interim city manager Robert Spinks’ concerns regarding having a police station in a shopping mall.

“I’ve been with this department since 1999 and I can tell you these people deserve more than a place in this shopping center,” he said.

Councilor Erik Erichsen indicated he supported the police station request for qualifications, but wanted to see a city hall request with the opportunity for the current city hall site to be redeveloped.

Hays and Needham said they would try to make sure the request would be as inclusive as possible, while being detailed enough for developers to have an idea of how to respond. The pair likely will put a price cap on the request. Needham has estimated the two projects would cost more than $13 million. The council has more than $2.5 million set aside for a down payment.

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