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Poulsbo celebrates new city hall

The new Poulsbo city hall opened for business Monday. - Brad Camp/For the Herald
The new Poulsbo city hall opened for business Monday.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

POULSBO — Twenty-six years of momentum, a decade of deliberation and two years of construction came to an end Wednesday night when the City of Poulsbo celebrated the official opening of its municipal campus at Moe Street and Third Avenue.

The building was dedicated in a ceremony that included a blessing from the Suquamish Tribe and the collection of items for a 50-year time capsule to be embedded in wall of the new building.

More than 150 citizens filled the new council chambers, overflowing into the doorways and lobby. Many came out of curiosity to inspect the new building, including Poulsbo resident Kathy Chilcott.

“It's very attractive. Light, open, airy,” Kathy Chilcott said. She had hoped the city would build the structure downtown but didn't anticipate the 3-story, 30,000-square-foot building's location or scale.

“I thought they'd build where the old building was,” she said.

Lemolo resident Cindi Nevins applauded the building's style and said it could mean more visitors to the city's campus.

“It might encourage people to come down and participate,” Nevins said.

Nevins recognized the building's cost, but contended it represents a good investment for the future.

“It is a burden, but I think over the long-term it will turn out that they were pretty visionary,” she said.

The building opened for business Monday at 200 NE Moe Street.

Talk about finding a new city hall began in the mid-1980's, as the make-shift building on Jensen Way that previously served as a fire station grew aged and in need of repairs. The city purchased land at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Iverson Street in 2000 with the intention of building city hall there. That idea was scrapped after environmental stipulations related to Dogfish Creek precluded the city's plan. The land eventually became Centennial Park.

In 2006 the city purchased property along Tenth Avenue with plans to build city hall there, but a debate began between the benefits of that location, an already existing structure near the Poulsbo Village or somewhere in the heart of downtown. A 2006 citizen advisory vote directed city leaders to build downtown.

While sites were scouted and building designs drawn, the city hall on Jensen Way worsened. Roofs leaked and some employees worked out of offices that were no more than closets.

City Accounting Manager Jana McQuade didn't have heating or air-conditioning in her old office, which was situated in an add-on portion of the old, mish-mashed structure. Her walls were made of cinder block.

McQuade now has an office with a window and a place to hang art. She said she's appreciative of her new space.

The cost of the new high-tech, low-impact city hall fluctuated in estimation from $12 million to $17 million, settling at about $15.8 million. More than once before construction began the city paused to reevaluated the expenditure. Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, then a councilwoman, and Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist were most vocal in promoting cost-saving measures.

Construction began in 2008. Dale Rudolph said Wednesday that the city benefited from a competitive bidding climate and low change order costs.

“We really got a bargain on this building,” he said.

Improvements were simultaneously made to Third Avenue, which abuts the eastern side of the building. Third Avenue resident Steve Gleason said he's glad for improvements, but misses the view his home used to have.

“It's a beautiful building, no question about that. It's just too high,” he said.

Poulsbo Public Works Director Barry Loveless said crews will be putting finishing touches on the building for the next couple months.

Several politicians commemorated the city's new building Wednesday, including former Mayor Kathryn Quade, who helmed much of the efforts to construct city hall downtown.

“To me this building and what it symbolizes is an anchor to downtown,” Quade said. “It's a manifestation of Poulsbo's determination to grow. We're going to grow our way out of this recession.”

There was a lot of contention throughout the process, but the building was eventually put together through compromise, Erickson said.

“This building is a demonstration of the love of the people for their town,” she said. “Now it's built, it's our city hall … and we should be thankful for what we have.”

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