Following a parade of impassioned existing City Hall personnel pleading for a “yes” vote to proceed with the long-overdue renovation of the Falls Church City Hall, the F.C. City Council Monday voted 5-2 to approve a $13.35 million do-over. The project, which has technically already begun with the relocation of key functions of the police department to the property yard, is slated to be completed by a year from now.
Compelling testimony was provided by 17-year Falls Church Police veteran Lieutenant Joe Carter, Officer James Brooks, Sheriff’s deputy Matt Kaye, Chief of Police Mary Gavin, Judge Richard J. McCue, a judge from the 17th General District Court that covers the City of Falls Church and holds court at City Hall two days a week, and City Treasurer Jody Acosta who all spelled out in graphic terms the dangerous shortcomings of the current City Hall from a security standpoint. and why after 10 years of talking about this project, it was time to delay no further.
“The health, wellness and dignity of our employees” demand no less, Chief Gavin said, noting four inspections of the facility since 2005 that all found it wanting in the worst way. “It is dangerous, vulnerable and a risk to even discuss in public,” Gavin said.
Judge McCue said he’s served for over a decade on the Court Security Committee when two reports detailing the severe security shortcomings of the current City Hall configuration were prepared.
The Council’s disagreement was over whether to stick to a strict $13 million price tag for the effort, or whether to add in funds for two add-on improvements, a green screen around the parking lot and an open ceiling in the main corridor. The proposal to add an extra $350,000 to the cost earned “no” votes on the motion from Council members Letty Hardi and Karen Oliver.
Plans are to have the Sheriff’s Department and Housing and Human Services offices relocated before Christmas, and the building will be entirely empty from April 2018 to the December 2018 target for the completion of the work.
“Times have changed, and we have to change to meet the new reality,” said Councilman David Snyder in announcing his “yes” vote.
Among the renovations that will occur are a secured one-level parking garage behind City Hall that will offer parking for police, sheriff and court officials and secured prisoner and weapon transport.
They will include a central front entrance to enhance public safety, Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, and visitor convenience, two new hallways, one secured for staff, connecting the east and west wings of the building.
Provisions will be provided for “shelter in place” locations for the public and staff, along with upgraded electrical, sprinkler and plumbing systems, and replacing the 60-year-old HVAC unit and generator.