As city employees start migrating north today to their temporary workplace for the next year, measures have been put in place to make the relocation easy on the public.
Water bills and other mail addressed to Eau Claire City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St., will be forwarded to the former W.L. Gore/3M building, 2020 Prairie Lane, where about 90 municipal employees will work while the historic downtown building undergoes extensive renovation.
“A move like this is very disruptive, and staff is working hard to take it in stride,” City Manager Dale Peters said.
Employees in City Hall were working Monday in cubicles and offices with barren walls and lined with boxes labeled with their names and their new room numbers for the next year.
Human resources starts off the move today, and other offices will follow over about two weeks. The last ones to go will be customer service workers who see the most walk-in business.
A few city employees will stay behind, taking up residence in Fire Station No. 2, which neighbors City Hall.
About four employees will run a temporary customer service center to help people who would prefer to do their business downtown instead of going to the Prairie Lane office building.
The city’s elections office is permanently moving to the ground floor of the fire station, which has an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible entrance and nearby parking.
“We actually think that’s an improvement in customer service,” Peters said.
The City Hall move has caused the city to speed up its transition to moving more of its services online.
“Ideally people should be able to interact and do business with us as much as possible online,” Peters said.
While people can still mail their water bills to City Hall and they will be forwarded to 2020 Prairie Lane for the next year, Peters suggested residents try paying online through the city’s website instead.
Documents dating back to Eau Claire’s founding — its 1872 articles of incorporation, original plats and deeds to city parks — have now gone digital.
The original papers will be maintained for their historic value, Peters said, but the relocation prompted the city to finally scan them so they are preserved electronically as well.
“We’re phasing out a lot of other papers,” Peters said.
Mundane records — financial papers, old reports and other documents — are now stored electronically while their originals were shredded and recycled.
Numerous filing cabinets throughout City Hall had pink Post-it notes with “Hope Gospel” written on them Monday, indicating their next stop is to the local charity’s thrift shop.
The City Council decided this spring that the former 3M building would be the temporary City Hall but wanted public meetings and a service center to remain downtown.
“It’s going to be harder for people to get out to the City Hall on the north side, but all the things we could keep accessible, we’re trying to do so,” council acting President Andrew Werthmann said.
The City Council will meet Tuesday, July 24, in its regular location of the council chamber at City Hall, but following meetings will be at the county Courthouse, 721 Oxford Ave. The city’s Plan Commission and some staff meetings also will use space inside the courthouse.
But other city boards and commissions will be at different sites in the downtown area, including meeting rooms at L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, RCU’s corporate center and other locations that have not yet been set.
City Hall employees are moving for a year because an extensive renovation including the ventilation, water and electrical systems is easier and cheaper to do for the whole building instead of one floor or wing at a time, Peters said.
City Hall’s exterior got attention last year with new roofing and the first cleaning of its limestone in a century. With the building now sealed up and buckets are no longer used to catch rainwater in some spots on the top floor, the renovation moves inside.
In addition to updating the building’s infrastructure, the renovation will get rid of drop-ceilings and other changes made to the interior in the late 1970s in the name of energy efficiency.
“We are restoring the historic nature of the buildings,” Peters said. Eau Claire’s current City Hall is composed of a Carnegie Library built in 1903 and a City Hall from 1917 that were joined by a connecting building in 1978.
Stained glass vaulted ceilings hidden for decades by white, institutional ceiling tiles will be revealed as part of the project. Peters noted that modern building methods along with new heating and cooling systems allow the city to uncover the historic interior while also saving on energy costs.
The city has a one-year lease for the north side office building. After the renovation of City Hall is done, offices will reopen there by Labor Day 2019, Peters said.
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