Costs to demolish old Viroqua City Hall, street improvement, higher than expected

VIROQUA Wis. – Following the construction of new city hall that was completed in 2022 the city of Viroqua decided the old city hall building at the corner of Decker and Main Streets was not worth saving and voted in July of last year to demolish the building. You can read our previous story about that discussion and cote here.

At the same time the city council also gave city staff the go ahead to immediately do improvements to the street corner where the building sits, including moving the traffic light that had been knocked over repeatedly, causing the safety concern that was also a major reason for the decision to demolish the building. Staff was also directed to begin the process of exploring possible uses for the lot once the building was removed including the potential for a green space, community art, and/or historical markers.

The city council has since voted to designate the location a historic site. The site does have historical significance with ties to historically significant figures like Moses Decker, who was one of the founders of the community, and Jeremiah Rusk, who later go on the Governor of Wisconsin.

The city did entertain the possibility of keeping the building and put out a request for proposals to redevelop the site. The city did get one offer to buy and renovate the building but that proposal was ultimately rejected, mainly because of the safety issue related to the traffic signal. You read our previous story about that proposal, the council discussion, and their vote here.

After the vote to move ahead with demolition city staff began gathering bids and proposals for both the demolition of the building and street corner improvements. Costs included items like hazardous materials testing and removal, utility relocation, engineering, and the actual demolition and removal of the building. As the chart below shows the budget for the project has grown because of added work and unforeseen expenses.

City Administrator Nate Torres said many of the individual line items in the budget cost more than expected and the scope of the project has expanded. Torres said the original $80,000 estimate was just for the removal of the building. Since then the relocation of electrical box was added to the project because it is attached to the building and it controls the lighting on Main Street. The improvement to the intersection was added in November of last year at a cost of $20,000 for engineering and $188,000 for construction. That engineering cost has since gone up to about $42,000 because the project could not be included the rest of the main street work that is going on this year, and will have to be bid separately. And the cost of construction has now gone up to $202,000. Torres said there also some additional costs for dirt fill that will be needed to fill in the lot once the building is removed.

Torres reminded the council that the overall goal was to remove a safety hazard that resulted from the traffic signal being too close the curb, and the only way to correct that was removal of the building.

“The reasons why I think the staff, and I think conversations with mayor, the desire to move forward with this is that this whole project was born out of really an impetus for public safety,” said Torres. “Right? And we’re concerned that, all it’s going to take is a semi to cut the corner too sharp and have a family sitting underneath that stoplight and it would be a very tragic event. So if we’ve identified a public safety issue and we have an advantageous window to address it it would probably make sense.”

Torres said they have also identified where the money will come from to pay for the improvements. Torres said the city’s Tax Incremental Finance District number six does have revenue that can be used to pay for most of the cost and the city does have some remaining ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds left that could also be directed toward the project.

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