Bonding funds sought for Hastings City Hall improvements

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Hastings' historic dome overlooking the Mississippi River is in need of restoration, city officials told members of the House Capital Investment Committee.

The city is requesting $1.5 million from the 2018 bonding bill for improvements to City Hall, as well as some renovations to the connected police station. City officials estimate it will cost $6 million to fully renovate the campus, but are currently only pursuing half that amount with the request and a 50/50 match.

Lawmakers on the committee that assembles the public works funding bill visited Hastings Tuesday, Sept. 5.

The 146-year-old building is leaking in several places and exterior bricks and limestone are falling away. Police Chief Bryan Schafer said the second floor of the police station needs buckets to hold leaks.

City Planner Justin Fortney said the building also needs HVAC improvements in order to stabilize the temperature and humidity in the building. The high interior humidity has caused swelling and shrinking of the wood and cracks in the walls and ceilings.

The last restoration was in 1993 after the city purchased the building from Dakota County.

"It's a beautiful building, but we do have some struggles with it," City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee said.

Schafer said the systems in the police station, built in 1955, are getting old and need updates.

Though systems between the City Hall and police building are mostly unconnected, Mayor Paul Hicks said many of the same historic preservation restrictions that must be followed with renovating historic buildings also apply to the 60-year-old building because of its age and style.

Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul, the DFL lead on the Capital Investment Committee, said they have to be careful about setting precedent in cases like this.

"You're talking about restoration of a historic building, and that's unique to the state. But for a local police department, you've got to make a bigger case," Hausman said. "We've got local police departments all over the state."

Committee Chairman Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said it's possible they could exclude the police renovations from funds allocated to Hastings if they choose to include City Hall in the bonding bill.

Mesko Lee said the city had applied for grants to make improvements on City Hall, but have not received an answer yet.