Armory plans advancing

Six Marietta City Council members agreed Wednesday that permanent council chambers should be located on the first floor of the city’s National Guard Armory building on Front Street. And at least one councilman suggested other city offices could also be moved into the 99-year-old facility.

“I believe we should also be able to accommodate city offices from 304 Putnam St. in the armory building,” Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said during a meeting of council’s lands, buildings and parks committee at Lookout Park Wednesday afternoon.

City safety-service director Jonathan Hupp agreed, noting the city buildings at 308 and 304 Putnam St. are aging and in need of roofing and other repairs.

Offices currently located at 308 Putnam St., including the city auditor, treasurer and IT department, are to be moved into the city building at 301 Putnam once renovations underway at city hall are completed.

But Hupp said council should also be considering the relocation of offices at 304 Putnam, which include the water, development, health and engineering departments.

“This may be an excellent opportunity to use the armory building as an asset to accommodate those offices,” he said.

Once the city facilities from 308 and 304 Putnam are relocated, both buildings would be put up for sale.

Some long-awaited renovations have been made to the armory building over the last couple of years, including a new roof, new energy-efficient windows and doors, new front steps, restoration of the exterior brickwork and stabilization of the building’s interior.

More than $1.1 million has been expended on those improvements, and the cost to complete the building renovations with plumbing, electrical and mechanical upgrades could cost another $700,000.

But members of the nonprofit Armory Square Board are hoping to open the building for public use in phases, beginning with the ground floor area sometime next year as 2014 will be the 100th anniversary of the armory’s original construction.

They say the ground floor renovations would include Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant public restrooms, office space for the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Washington County Veterans Services, a bus station and ticket office, WASCO Inc. office, a kayak and canoe rental area for the Marietta Adventure Company, and council chambers.

Elevator service would also eventually be installed to all three floors of the building.

The needed renovations in order to open the ground floor area would cost an estimated $185,000, which would be covered with a Scenic Byways grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation in the amount of $252,000, including a $63,000 match in contributions raised by the Armory Square Board.

Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs the lands, buildings and parks committee, said he sees the armory as a community transportation hub and visitor information center as well as a location for city council chambers.

Conducting tours of the armory building prior to Wednesday’s committee meeting, Noland said rental fees from the entities currently planning to locate in the ground floor rooms would total more than $3,000 a month, which should easily cover the building’s utility costs.

Council would not pay rent on the chambers area, and WASCO would be provided with a room in exchange for janitorial services the agency has agreed to perform at the armory building.

Noland, Vukovic and fellow council members Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, Michael Mullen, I-at large, all agreed the armory would be the best location for council chambers.

“It makes sense for council to take the lead by locating chambers at the armory and then grow the facilities from there,” Mullen said.

Thomas noted the armory would be accessible to people with disabilities and said he is all for council chambers there.

Kalter said the city’s River Trail runs directly past the armory property and would provide a means for citizens to walk or bike to city council and committee meetings.

“I have no problem with this move-just so council can have a permanent home,” Vukovic added.