City Hall design approved

BERKELEY LAKE - Berkeley Lake residents are a step closer to having a City Hall that didn't at one time serve as a bait shack.

Council members Thursday approved the preliminary site plan, floor plan and elevations presented by architectural firm Wakefield Beasley and Associates. Months of consultation, preparation and review led up to the vote, nearly derailed by a last-minute concern regarding building security from Councilwoman Rebecca Spitler.

Spitler, who has a military background and whose husband is involved with homeland security efforts, voiced concern about the vulnerability of a government building that, by design, is open to the public and has no real buffer area between the front door and city staff offices. The new $750,000 City Hall building is designed to look like a lodge. It has a small reception area at the entrance.

Mayor Lois Salter suggested building a glass wall with a glass door in that area, creating a slight slow-down between building entrants and city staff.

The mayor's concern was more about giving staff members time to react to someone entering the building, since there are typically only one or two working in City Hall on any given day. A glass wall, according to Salter, would be more welcoming and would give the reception area a more open look than a solid wall.

Councilwoman Debbie Guthrie said constructing any type of wall would give the building a cold, impersonal feel. She suggested hiring a receptionist to direct entrants to the building would be a better use of city funds.

When the discussion turned to whether bulletproof glass and walls should be constructed in the new building, Eric Bosman suggested council members decide what level of security they desire for the new building, then let the design team come up with the solutions. Bosman is the Urban Collage design consultant who has worked with the city from the beginning to design this new building.

"It's unfortunate we didn't put more emphasis on (security) earlier," said Mayor pro tem Walter Anderson, since some of the security measures could potentially change the front elevation of the building as well as increase the cost of construction. Anderson and Guthrie were also concerned residents had been shown the plans in a March 15 open house, and the security concerns raised Thursday night could have potentially delayed approval of those same plans.

Council members eventually voted on whether to approve the plans submitted by Wakefield Beasley, approving a preliminary site plan and the building design, with the stipulation that a cost benefit analysis be performed to determine the size of the basement in the building.