MARINETTE — This week, Marinette City Council approved a proposal from Ayres Associates regarding Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) Planning Grant writing services for the City of Marinette. The approval authorized a contract between the city and Ayres Associates that would cost the city $5,000 for the preparation of the CDBG-Planning Application submittal for a potential $50,000 grant program. 

Ayers Associates Inc. represents a multi-discipline firm that offers a range of engineering, mapping, environmental, architectural and survey services.

Ultimately, the request from Ayres aims to utilize grant money to pay the costs associated with the preliminary planning processes for the assessment of the potential relocation of City Hall and city services to the former Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette.

“This is a great program for planning purposes,” said City Engineer Brian Miller. “The nice thing about this program is that it has a match in the city’s favor. For a $25,000 city contribution, (the city) would receive $50,000 CBDG grant funding, so you would have a total of $75,000 to conduct a planning study of City Hall relocating to the former BAMC facility.”

Miller explained that the program would assess the potential impacts to downtown economic development as well as gauge cost benefits and other details if City Hall ever relocates to the former BAMC. The proposal also detailed assessments regarding the space required to effectively accommodate City Hall operations in addition to the Marinette City Police Department.

According to Mayor Steve Genisot, such an assessment offers a good opportunity for the city to advance the research into the potential of moving City Hall, while also evaluating options that would exists for the current City Hall building if vacated. 

“It is an opportunity for us to research in more detail what the impact to the city is to move to (the former BAMC) as well as what the existing building could become,” Genisot said. 

Over the last few years, on several occasions, the idea of relocating City Hall emerged in discussions among council members and during public meetings. A common theme and driving force behind the idea of relocating City Hall stemmed from the cost of maintenance operations and inadequate operational space of the existing downtown building.

Genisot remembered those past discussions. He emphasized the fact that remaining at the current location might cost upwards of several million dollars. 

“If we don’t look at all options, (and) unless we have $6 to $7 million to put into this building – and we still haven’t addressed the space needs or the garages for the police department,” he said. “So I think … as part of our due diligence … we need to have that discussion about the existing City Hall … This proposal is the next step to officially and effectively look at funding to see what the city’s option are.”  

While the focus of the proposal centers on moving City Hall to the former BAMC, Genisot did raise the point that, as a recurring topic, the city continues ongoing discussions about alternative locations aside from BAMC, but he pointed out that the former BAMC currently represents the largest city building available for re-purposing. 

While he agreed some sort of action needs to occur regarding issues with the current City Hall, Alderman Rick Polzin voice opposition to the idea of moving City Hall outside the area of the city center to an area that lies on the outskirts of the city, like BAMC. He explained that he failed to envision a scenario where moving City Hall to that location would serve the best interests of the city. 

“I don’t think, in the grand scheme of things, that (it would) help the city, city growth and the redevelopment we want downtown (if we were) to move operations out to (former BAMC),” Polzin told council members during this week’s Council meeting. “I don’t see any value in doing the study until we have established some other framework or structure about how we are going to a number of things in the city.”

Addressing Polzin’s concerns, Miller highlighted the point that the program would also evaluate the economic impact if the current City Hall were to be occupied by something other than city operations.  

The council approved the proposal 7-1. Polzin cast the single opposing vote.