The case for replacing Scottville City Hall

January 16, 2023

Blueprint of Scottville City Hall, from the archives of the Mason County Historical Society.

The case for replacing Scottville City Hall

Op/Ed By Rob Alway

Editor’s Note: Rob Alway is editor-in-chief of Mason County Press and also serves as a Scottville city commissioner. This article is an opinion editorial (op/ed) and represents the views of the author. 

During the last regular meeting of the Scottville City Commission, held Jan. 9, the commission set its goals for 2023. One of the goals that I suggested was to move out of City Hall. Anyone who knows me knows that I love history and am a strong advocate for historic preservation. But, more importantly, I am an elected representative of the people of Scottville and it’s my job, as a commissioner, to make decisions that are best for the residents and taxpayers of our community. 

Scottville City Hall at 105 N. Main St., opened in 1916, nine years after Scottville became a city and 27 years after the town was chartered as a village. The building, when built, not only served as the administrative offices of the city, but also served as the fire station. The second floor was a community hall. When the police department was established it also served as the police station. 

The hall was closed in the mid-70s after the construction of the Scottville Optimist Center. The fire station was moved to its present location on East Broadway Avenue in the early ’80s. 

City staff used to be larger than it is now. There was a time when most of the space in the hall was occupied. Today, there are three employees working in the office, along with a police officer in another part of the building. 

The building is showing its age. It is in need of major electrical upgrades. The roof needs replacement. The facade is crumbling. 

A private owner would most likely qualify for financial assistance, possibly through brownfield or Michigan Economic Development Corporation, to invest in the needed upgrades, while the city’s chances of receiving such funds are very low. A private owner would also maximize all the space in the building. 

In the past, there has been talk about the city re-opening the second floor hall. Besides major renovations that would be needed, the second floor would also need an elevator to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it is a public building. 

Selling the building would also mean it would be on the tax rolls. As the largest building in downtown Scottville, it likely could have one of the highest tax assessments of any downtown building. This would be a benefit to the city, and to other entities that collect property taxes such as Mason County Central Schools, West Shore Educational Service District, West Shore Community College, Mason County Rural Fire Authority, Council on Aging, and Ludington Mass Transit Authority. 

The next issue would be finding a replacement for city hall. Building a new building is out of the question. That would defeat based on current building costs. While the city’s downtown development authority owns the former Optimist Center, there is a different plan for that facility. Plus, I believe the costs to add office space in that facility would be prohibitive. 

It’s likely the city would purchase another downtown building, considering there are not many other office buildings anywhere else in town. While this would mean taking a building off the tax rolls, the addition of the “old” city hall onto the tax roll would be an even swap at the minimum but more than likely, an increase in tax collection. 

A question about meeting space has been raised. My response to that is that if the city was unable to find a building with ample office space, there are places in town where public meetings could be held, such as the Scottville branch of the Mason County District Library. 

While fiscal responsibility is certainly the primary reason for this goal, I also think that moving out of the current hall and opening a “new” city hall would be a strong symbol of a new direction for the city as well. 

This is just in the exploration phase at this time but I personally would like to see the commission move forward on this sometime this year. At this time City Manager Jimmy Newkirk is looking at options. 

If a citizen has any comments for the city, please feel free to reach out to City Manager Jimmy Newkirk at citymanager@cityofscottville.org. 

Eats

Eats