Renovation of Zionsville Town Hall began April 5, but some disagree with Mayor Emily Styron’s vision for some aspects of the project.
The reconfiguration, which town officials estimate will cost more than $367,000, includes the creation of the Municipal Action Center, a one-stop space for residents to conduct government business, and the build-out of the second floor of the hall, which was purposefully left unfinished when it opened in 2017.
Construction is anticipated to continue into late June or early July. Amanda Vela, the town’s public information officer, said updates will be provided as they become available. Town Hall will remain closed to foot traffic during the work but will open to residents and customers by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call 317-873-5410.
The reconfiguration will establish the Municipal Action Center on the first floor. Currently, town services are spread throughout town at multiple locations. Administrative staff from the Dept of Public Works and Parks and Recreation Dept. will move to the second floor of Town Hall when the vacant space is renovated.
Zionsville Town Council member Bryan Traylor supports finishing the second floor to utilize space.
“That was a plan we’ve had in place for a while, and it allows us to not need to build an additional building for those people,” Traylor said. “The Dept. of Public Works is currently housed in the same building as the police department, and the police department is just busting at the seems, so they need the space. And moving the Dept. of Public Works over to the Town Hall, that’s a great move. That’s exactly what needs to happen.”
But Traylor said he doesn’t support renovating the first floor of Town Hall less than four years after it was built.
“There’s a lot of things that are wants that aren’t necessarily needs,” Traylor said. “I just don’t think it’s the right time to do that on such a new building. The idea that the mayor’s administration doesn’t like the existing flow of the downstairs is just not a good enough reason to support the expense. That being said, (Styron) is moving forward with the renovation of that area without the support of the council.”
The town council voted 4-3 against an additional appropriation for the renovations, with the costs being mostly for furnishing and other supplementary expenditures. Zionsville CFO Tammy Havard said the town could finance the reconfiguration without the additional appropriation, which the mayor’s administration chose to do. Some town councilors cited the town’s “tight” budget as a reason to not appropriate the additional funds.
“Town Hall was initially built with the understanding the second floor would need some changes and modifications and be built out potentially for something like this,” said Jason Plunkett, town council vice president. “From our perspective, that’s why the money was in the budget for some of those renovations.”
Plunkett, who voted against approving the request for additional appropriation for the project, said he and some of his constituents have reservations about the price of the reconfiguration.
“I had email dialogue with the town about the project, and the project was going to move forward anyway, whether we approved the money or not,” Plunkett said. “So from my perspective, if the money wasn’t needed for the project to move forward, I didn’t see the need to vote in favor of the appropriation.”
Traylor said all parties have the best interests of Zionsville in mind but that “we may not all have the same vision.”
Town employees anticipate the reconfiguration will save money. In 2018, the town introduced plans for a new municipal complex to house the parks and recreation department and Dept. of Public Works. The complex is still anticipated, according to Lance Lantz, the town’s director of public works, though the proposed project awaits funding approval. By moving the two departments to Town Hall, Zionsville officials estimate the town will save more than $1.6 million that would have been spent to house the departments in the complex.
Although the project might save money, some believe the Municipal Action Center could have been simplified.
Initially, the mayor contemplated hiring a lobby receptionist to greet, guide and assist visitors on the first floor, which Dave Russell, a Zionsville resident, said would have been a more appropriate use of the space. The vision, however, has now been reimagined as a small municipal action team that will assist customers.
“I struggle with having a brand new, or what I consider to be brand new, building that we feel like we need to reconfigure the entire downstairs to implement a new idea,” Russell said. “However, I think the mayor’s new idea is a great idea. There’s surely some way to use the space as it is configured now and still implement (her) plan.”
Traylor echoed the sentiment.
“I think the idea of a Municipal Action Center is a good idea, to have a central person to direct people to where they need to go to,” Traylor said. “However, that same concept could really be accomplished by a reception desk right there at substantially less cost. I think a reception desk would have been an easy solution and cheaper solution.”