The Zionsville Town Council, in two 4-3 votes, denied two separate motions to approve additional funds for a planned renovation of Zionsville Town Hall.
Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron, as part of her election campaign, envisioned establishing a municipal action center in Town Hall, a one-stop location for residents and customers to complete town business instead of having similar services spread across multiple locations in Zionsville.
Town officials recently presented plans to the town council to reconfigure Town Hall. The reconfiguration would utilize more than 5,000 square feet of unused space on the second floor, which was purposely left unfinished when the hall opened in 2017. It also would add a municipal action center on the first floor by creating office space for staff from several departments. Town officials estimate construction and furnishing costs for both floors to total no more than $367,694.
During its March 15 meeting, the council considered five additional appropriations, two of which pertained to the Town Hall reconfiguration. The council unanimously approved an additional appropriation of $1.2 million to the town’s Motor Vehicle Highway Fund for a new right of way for construction of a roundabout at C.R. 800 E. and Oak St.; $475,000 to the town’s Park and Rec Operating fund to complete Phase 2 construction of Heritage Trail Park; and $260,000 to the town’s WW Availability Fund to conduct a capacity study of the town’s wastewater collection system and plant.
But the council voted 4-3 to deny two other appropriation requests — one for $20,000 for wiring and computer networks at Town Hall and the other for $98,000, primarily for new furnishing for the Town Hall reconfiguration.
Zionsville Town Council President Josh Garrett, Vice President Jason Plunkett and council members Brad Burke and Bryan Traylor voted to deny the request. Council members Alexander Choi, Joe Culp and Craig Melton voted against a motion to deny the request.
Council members who voted to deny the request expressed concern that Town Hall’s first floor would be reconfigured four years after it was opened.
“I am 100 percent for the additions, building out the upstairs to accommodate our Dept. of Public Works and make space for our police department across the street. I can’t get on board with renovating this portion of the building that is already done and was just recently built,” Traylor said. “I understand it may not be ideal to the current administration’s vision, but I also don’t want to set the precedent that every new administration will get to come in and renovate the entire building.”
Tammy Havard, the town’s chief financial officer, said the reconfiguration would continue without the additional appropriations from the town council, but because the council denied the two requests, existing furniture would likely need to be used to furnish Town Hall following the reconfiguration. Havard also said some expenses might be able to be reimbursed by federal COVID-19 funds.
“A lot of this could get done without this money,” Garrett said. “Does it make sense to sort of get done what needs to be done from a building standpoint and then, if there are additional things that we need – furniture, white boarding – let’s put that into next year’s budget because there’s less of a time constraint versus taking advantage of stuff right now? If the bones can still get done with the current money and doesn’t put us further in the hole, if you will, I think, overall, the project makes sense. I think it is a benefit to the community.
“I’m just hesitant as we keep approving things. Each one we approve means the balanced budget is further in the hole.”
The reconfiguration would move the Zionsville Parks and Recreation Dept. and Dept. of Public Works to the second floor.
In 2018, the town introduced plans for a new municipal complex, which is still anticipated, though no progress has been made since a funding request failed in 2019. By moving the two departments to Town Hall, Lance Lantz, Zionsville’s director of public works, estimates the town can save more than $1.6 million that would have been spent to build new spaces for the departments inside the complex.