Opinion

Full circle at Snoqualmie's City Hall

The official opening of the new Snoqualmie City Hall last week brought a number of local city officials full circle.

Its foundations raised on the site of the city’s former volunteer-built fire hall, the new building reminded folks such as Councilman Charles Peterson and Fire Chief Bob Rowe where they got their start.

“It’s kind of old home week,” said Peterson. The veteran councilman, who has spent seven years on the council and was mayor for eight, took his seat last Monday in new chambers overlooking downtown Snoqualmie. His desk was just feet from the place where, decades ago, he was sworn in for his first term. The site: a former fire hall meeting room.

“It’s nice to be back home,” Peterson said.

The new building also brought back memories for Chief Rowe, who recalls manning a drafty office a little too close to the truck bay for comfort. That was before his department decamped for new quarters at Kimball Creek.

It was Peterson’s vision, among others, that led to Snoqualmie’s new downtown city hall. Current city mayor Matt Larson has described the new building as a commitment to the residents of Snoqualmie’s downtown.

Creating the new building certainly wasn’t without its challenges. Construction dragged on for more than a year. Since work began, downtown Snoqualmie has flooded twice and a serious worldwide recession began, hampering and challenging both city budgets and the local economy. Delays got bad enough that the city halted payments to its contractor, then hit that company up for thousands of dollars in damages. And while City Administrator Bob Larson has said he is confident that damages will be paid, the length and cost of the job dima little bit of the limelight of what is otherwise a very proud moment for the city.

That said, staff and residents of Snoqualmie can take satisfaction and pride in something that is very much a rare occurrence for a small city: construction of a brand new, modern-looking, state-of-the-art town hall. Downtown residents should take note that, after years of growth and attention in Snoqualmie Ridge — the city library and police station are both atop the hill — they can now walk to their city council meetings.

Some pluses: the new city hall was built with green features in mind. There is no HVAC system, and no air ducts. The floor uses radiant heat, and a series of small ceiling fans throughout the building move air up or down, depending on whether it needs to be warmer or cooler. Snoqualmie City Clerk Jodi Warren saves time and space in her grant-funded rolling archive system.

The whole building’s original plan was cut down in size roughly 10 percent for efficiency’s sake. The design is expected to bring energy efficiency and productivity gains, while freeing up new venues for sale or lease downtown.

Also noteworthy is that the building’s ground floor is a good five feet off the ground. As flood season gets underway and residents and businesspeople in low-lying areas wonder when high water will come, one can’t help but note that City Hall occupants are high and dry. Is this the direction that future downtown projects will take?

While some bugs may pop up or still need to be worked out, the city hall looks to be a dramatic new addition to downtown. Stop by and check it out. Chances are, you’ll notice a number of eye-catching details. Not to mention that fleeting “new city hall” smell.

• E-mail editor Seth Truscott at editor@valleyrecord.com

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