Meadville Tribune

October 26, 2012

Police in; mayor sees light at and of City Hall move tunnel

By Mary Spicer

MEADVILLE — With veteran dispatcher Terri Coleman staffing the desk, Meadville Police Department successfully made Thursday’s changeover into brand-new quarters on the ground level of Meadville’s new City Hall on Diamond Park. By 10 a.m., incoming calls had been routed to the new location; before the clock struck noon, Coleman had also accepted the new location’s first parking-ticket payment.

On the second floor, Mayor Christopher Soff was settling into his new office, which shares the building’s upper level with the offices of Meadville Redevelopment Authority. Because Soff’s office is in the section of the building that was first to be refurbished and because he opted to furnish his office at his own expense, he was already in the process of emptying boxes and putting everything away.

“I’m excited,” Soff told the Tribune late Thursday morning.

“My hope is that city residents will be as proud of this building as we are,” he said. “A lot of time and effort has gone into resurrecting the armory into the new city hall and I think it’s turned out wonderfully well. It will suit the city’s needs and, of any building city government could occupy, I think this is the perfect, perfect building for us to be in.”

As for the cost of the project, which has spiraled from the original estimate of $1.74 million put forward last spring to the current estimate of $2.5 million, “It’s absolutely money well invested in the future of Meadville,” Soff said. “This is not a short-term move for us. Our hope and expectation obviously is that we will be here for 40 to 50 years, if not longer, in this building.

“Did the cost come in more than we had expected — and more than we wanted? Absolutely,” he continued. “Are we disappointed about that? Absolutely. But I would venture to say that anyone who has been involved in a renovation project unfortunately understands that your best efforts to see what’s behind a certain wall can be limited, and while you’re trying to plan for every contingency, it just doesn’t always work out that way.”

Along the way, there have been delays, and this week was no exception. While city officials had anticipated that work on the ground-floor police station and city offices on the main floor to be complete by the time the city closed down operations and began its move on Wednesday, it was apparent Thursday, as construction workers, electronics technicians, movers and city employees yielded the aisles to one another in a delicate dance, that things hadn’t exactly gone as quickly as planned.

“It’s been a big stressful week for all of us,” Assistant City Manager Andy Walker said late Thursday morning, “but for the most part, everyone has kept their tempers and is cooperating and trying to keep out of each others’ way. There’s a lot of work going on all around us at once, but everyone is being amazingly cooperative.”

The first part of the building to be fully operational will be the police department, where the first priority Thursday was re-establishing all the department’s communication links with other local, state and federal agencies.

“By tomorrow night (Friday), when they start taking in the revelers from Halloween, we’ll be ready,” City Manager Joe Chriest said, noting that communications were in fine shape and the new cell block had already housed its first prisoner.  

As for city functions, which are scheduled to resume Monday, “So far we’re all pretty good,” Chriest said. “Monday morning we’ll all be ready. We’re coordinating things to make sure things are working in the Treasurer’s Office first thing Monday morning.”

The extended construction schedule collided with Chriest’s long-planned vacation, which ended Monday. “While I was gone, it was amazing,” he said. “Andy (Walker) just stepped in and kept things moving and coordinated. The whole staff has just been fantastic through this entire process. Everyone worked together.”

Major changes are still in store. The building’s glass block windows, for example, remain to be replaced, a project that is expected to be complete before the year ends. Then there’s the construction of the police garage and stairway at the rear of the building, which is just beginning.

In addition, “there are a lot of little things on the interior that we’re aware aren’t quite finished,” Chriest said. “The same contractor (Declan Construction Inc. of Brookfield, Ohio) is working on the garage, so I can imagine that some of this final interior cleanup work will be ongoing for another month or so.”

As the mayor sees it, there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. “The end result is a wonderful, beautiful project that I’m proud to have been a part of — and I hope that the rest of the city feels that way, too,” Soff said.

City Hall’s move-in schedule


City offices closed for business.

Police department — At new City Hall

District justice — Still at Water Street

Monday through Wednesday

City offices open — At new City Hall

Police department — At new City Hall

District justice — Still at Water Street


City offices and police department — At new City Hall

District justice — Water Street until noon, then closed.


Nov. 2 through 6

City offices and police department — At new City Hall

District justice — closed.        

Nov. 7

City offices, police department, district justice — All open at news City Hall