New animal shelter, renovation of historic City Hall among bond projects being considered by Springfield City Council

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 7:08 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2023 at 12:02 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - On Tuesday night the Springfield City Council began considering an ordinance that would allow the city to issue $15.5 million in bonds for several projects including improvements to the building they meet in and constructing a new shelter for homeless dogs and cats.

All this is made possible because of funding from a property tax levy that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2017.

One set of bonds has already been issued that resulted in initiatives like several new fire stations.

This latest group of bonds, which must still be approved by the city council, includes the renovation of historic City Hall, where the council chambers are located on the third floor.

“The building was originally constructed in 1894 at a cost of just under $134,000,” explained Christopher Akins, a city employee who gives tours of City Hall. “That might buy a two bedroom, one bath house now. It originated as a post office and customs facility but also housed offices of the IRS and National Weather Service. And since it was a federal court facility the building still has these bank vault-style doors because of all the sensitive documents they would have had. The council chambers look like a courtroom because it was at one time. It was an old federal courtroom and the room where the council members enter from is the old judge’s chambers.”

The exterior of City Hall has intricate stone carving and a beautiful architecture Akins described as “Romanesque Revival”, a style that draws on the looks of the 11th and 12th century that became popular again in the late 19th century.

The structure’s unique design is one reason City Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places. And while it looks impressive on the outside, inside the building looks like its best years are behind it with a failing HVAC system, one small elevator and worn out....well...lots of things from the carpet to the ceiling tiles.

With the recent departure of the Springfield Fire Department, which used City Hall as its headquarters, the building only has a handful of employees remaining but the goal is to get the building back to its former glory and move in more city government departments.

“It’s in pretty bad shape and it certainly wouldn’t meet the needs of modern office space,” said Jennifer Swan, Springfield’s City Architect who’s working on the bond projects. “All the networking, security, HVAC and electrical systems are very dated and have exceeded their usefulness. We haven’t had it tested yet but I think there’s gonna be asbestos, lead paint and maybe mold as well. We’ve got to check on all that. But it’s a Springfield landmark that’s worth the investment.”

“I’m very happy to see that we do try to preserve buildings like this rather than just mowing them down and building something new,” Akins added. “I’m glad to see that we’re keeping this gem because there’s really no other structure quite like it in Springfield.”

While $6 million of bond money would go into historic City Hall with additional funding coming from ARPA funds, another major project whose costs will be shared by the city and Greene County is a new bigger, nicer animal shelter with a projected price tag of at least $4.8 million.

The current one is located north of the fairgrounds and anyone who has seen it understands the need for a new one.

“It is not a nice facility by any means,” Swan said. “And the site is very prone to flooding.”

“This animal shelter has been around since the 1930′s and ‘40′s with some additions in the ‘70′s and the early 2000′s and the infrastructure is old,” added Andee Elmore, the Administrator of Environmental Health for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. “Currently we can only house 60 dogs at one time and 18 cats. The new facility will allow us to house more animals and we’ll also be able to have a space where they can go outside and run around and have some playtime which we don’t have here. The city of Springfield has changed so much since this animal shelter opened so we really do need to grow and meet the demands of our new population. People in this city love their animals so we’re excited about this opportunity to have a new space with more room and new features to take good care of our animals.”

The new shelter would also be at a new location near Division and O’Hara Streets.

Other parts of the $15.5 million bond money would go to improve Public Works facilities and renovate/improve six Springfield Fire Stations.

Fire Station #2- $696,000 (608 West Commercial St.)

Fire Station #3- $614,000 (205 North Patterson Ave.)

Fire Station #5- #314,000 ((West Kearney St.)

Fire Station #6- $108,000 (2620 West Battlefield)

Fire Station #9- $753,000 (450 West Walnut Lawn)

Fire Station #11- $360,000 (4940 South Freemont Ave.)

The fire station projects are scheduled to be completed by 2028.

The historic City Hall project is projected to be finished by 2026.

The animal shelter has no completion date set yet.

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