Council considers new chambers

Maiden Town Council is researching the possibility of designing a new town hall and council chambers.

Council members discussed the possibility Monday night during the town's regularly scheduled meeting.

Marty Beal, of CBSA Architects, was on hand at the meeting to hear council member's wants and needs for new town facilities.

The project, however, is anything but certain.

"This isn't saying we're absolutely doing anything," said Maiden Mayor Bob Smyre. "We're exploring the idea."

Beal met with town staff and employees to assess their space, storage and interaction needs. This research helps Beal and his team better understand and design Maiden's potential new facilities.

"We're basically just evaluating how (staff) functioned in the space they have to perform," Beal said.

Smyre said Maiden's current town hall, located on West Main Street, is about 100 years old. The building previously housed the town jail and fire department and is now home to Maiden's administrative offices.

"Some people say we don't need a new town hall, but this thing is old," Smyre said. "They have not seen downstairs and the mold and the water leakage."

Maiden Town Council chambers aren't housed in the same building as the town hall. Members meet twice a month in chambers located within the Maiden Branch Library. Current council chambers has a certified occupancy of 46 people.

Council members spoke openly with Beal on Monday about what they want to see in new facilities for the town.

For Smyre, it's about looking into the town's long-term needs.

"I believe if one's built, it ought to be built for the future," he said. "If we're building something for this year or next year, this building is fine — don't change."

Smyre referenced nearby cities' council chambers, such as Conover, Hickory and Valdese, as possible models for Maiden's new facilities.

The cities have their council chambers and administrative offices in the same building, unlike Maiden.

"I wanted it to be closer to town hall offices, so in case I needed something (during a council meeting) I could go to my office," said Town Manager Todd Herms.

Council members also discussed the need for a private meeting room to be used when council goes into closed-sessions discussions.

There is no private room in Maiden's council chambers, and when council chooses to speak privately, the audience must leave chambers and wait outside the building or in the lobby until the discussion is completed.

Council members also talked about needs for bathrooms, storage and seating.

"Those are small things to consider, but those are important and convenient," Beal told council members.

Smyre and Herms said they envision council chambers that seat about 75-100 people. The seating arrangements should be movable, they said, to accommodate for meetings when more people than normal are in attendance.

Acoustics and displays were other topics of conversation Monday night.

Many newer council chambers buildings have flat-panel TVs or projection screens to display agendas or other important documents during meetings.

Maiden's potential new facilities opens up the possibility of additional features and amenities for the town's citizens.

Herms discussed the possibility of a drive-thru window to allow residents to make utility payments, as well as a State Employees Credit Union ATM to prevent low-amount credit card transactions.

Smyre acknowledged plans for new town facilities won't be inexpensive, but he assured Maiden residents that there are no definitive plans to proceed with the project.

The time is right, however, to build, he said.

Beal agreed.

"Right now, every architect and builder in the country are saying that now is the time to build," Beal said, adding although material costs continue to increase, labor costs remain relatively low.

Once Beal compiles his findings, he will present a tentative plan, with a cost estimate, to council members.

Council will then choose if, when and how to continue with the new facilities.

In other news
Maiden Town Council voted to use a new town marquis sign for town business only.

The town has a new sign, which is not yet installed, and council members voted unanimously not to let businesses or churches use the sign for advertising.

"If we let everybody put something on the sign, we'll get in very deep trouble," Smyre said.

Council members decided they won't let various churches or businesses advertise fundraisers on the sign because, eventually, more than one organization will want to use the sign at a time.

The new town marquis sign is part of a few ongoing downtown revitalization projects in Maiden.

"(The revitalization) isn't something we'll have to budget," Smyre said.

"There's money in the budget for downtown revitalization."

The town worked to repair its downtown clock, which will be replaced soon, Smyre said.

"(The clock) will be sitting right there at the intersection with flowers around it," he said.