Faced with citizen opposition and a threatened referendum, Fruit Heights city officials again delayed selecting a site for the city's proposed new municipal building.
The council met for 21/2 hours Tuesday in a special meeting, discussing the issue with concerned citizens and among themselves."The situation is politically messy, and I don't think the council or myself has a clear idea of what our options are exactly," said Mayor Blaine Nelson.
Nelson said some property owners have approached the council, offering their land for sale for the proposed city hall. The council agreed to look into those options, including cost, before making a decision.
The city has been putting money aside for several years to build a city hall and has about $150,000 saved. City offices are currently located in the Rock Loft, a privately owned structure that also houses a cannery, antique store and boutique.
The council had decided to build a new city hall on a site in Nichols Park, but opposition from neighbors and other residents resulted in a petition and formation of a citizen study committee.
The citizens committee concluded that the city does need a new city hall but recommended against putting it in the park. Petitions opposing the park site, with more than 500 names, were also submitted.
The council drew back from the park site temporarily, agreeing to study new sites, including a piece of city-owned land on Mountain Road just south of the Rock Loft and several other parcels that have been offered.
Nelson reiterated Tuesday that funding is a problem. If the city has to spend $50,000 to $75,000 to buy and develop one or two acres for a city hall, that will delay if not kill the project, he said.
Utilities are already available in the park and grading and excavation would be minimal, the mayor said. Construction of a municipal building would also be a first step in rehabilitation of the park, which the mayor said has suffered flood and other damage in recent years.
The park was developed with federal funds, and Bureau of Recreation regulations require that any land lost to recreation be replaced with property of equal market and recreation value, the mayor said.
The city proposed to replace the lost park land by developing its property on Mountain Road, which currently has the city water tank on it.
The council did make some progress in Tuesday's special meeting. When opposition to the park site surfaced, some residents questioned whether the city even needed its own municipal building.
The citizens committee study agreed that a building is needed and also agreed with a city engineering study that determined that buying and remodeling the Rock Loft is too expensive.
The committee recommended the city spend $105,000 on construction of a building, with the rest of the budget for site acquisition.
Acting on the committee's recommendation and its own previous decision, the council voted to proceed with the various steps, including site selection, necessary to build the municipal building.
Nelson said the city is looking at a building of between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet to house city offices, the justice court and meeting rooms.
"We're not going to build a Taj Mahal. But we're not going to build a little crackerbox either," the mayor said.