The construction work at the new North Center municipal building is still in full swing, but several town departments have completed the move into the new facility with others planning to join them within the next month.
After a series of delays, the Engineering, Planning, Building and Economic Development departments became the first to migrate from Town Hall to their new home. The wide open offices and hallways were a stark contrast to what the departments had been used to.
“I think it’s great,” said Assistant Town Engineer Annette Turnquist, who has also overseen the construction process. “The old space was so cramped that I never even bothered to bring in a picture of my kids. I had only one desk and one drafting table. Jim Grappone [Acting Town Engineer] had a stack of papers on his desk that was two feet tall because we just ran out of room. I think now our work will be more efficient for everyone.”
Staff members of the Engineering Department have been fielding many calls from residents wondering how to get to the new offices. The front entrance to North Center is still inaccessible to the public, but the Highway Department quickly opened up a side entrance on Mill Street and added a new street sign to help direct residents.
The second floor is still not ready to accommodate the departments that will be moving there, but that work is expected to be completed within weeks. That floor will be devoted primarily to the Board of Education, who will vacate their offices at Beecher Street and work alongside town departments. Chairman Brian Goralski said the school district had not yet picked an exact date to move in.
“We’re still hoping for the middle of August, but we have the good fortune of still having our office on Beecher Street,” Goralski said. “We want to make sure none of this impacts the start of the school year.”
Turnquist estimated that the remaining two town departments, Health and Youth Services, would begin their move from the George Gura building on August 29.
Youth Services Director Sue Saucier said that the space currently occupied by the department at the Gura Building was not designed specifically for them. In recent years, the department also had to give up their conference room in order to create an office for the Southington Town-Wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS).
“It will be nice to be somewhere new,” she said. “We’ll have a new conference room, so we’re looking forward to that. This will be a space designed with Youth Services in mind.”
The move is also keeping the remaining town staff at 75 Main Street busy. At the last Board of Finance meeting, a fund transfer of $100,000 was approved to help address the maintenance issues there.
“One of the things we had not contemplated was that after seeing the departments move out, the walls were trashed and the carpets were trashed,” said Town Manager Garry Brumback, adding that the town intends to do some painting and carpeting work in those spots. “Once the transfer is complete at North Center, there’s going to be a lot of moving around inside [Town Hall]. The Town Attorney is moving upstairs and we also have the Parks Department and IT folks to deal with. We would like to pull everyone out of the basement and use it for storage.”