NORWICH – The Norwich City Council moved to continue entertaining ideas of selling One City Plaza on Wednesday, but stopped short of committing to a final decision about keeping the property or putting it back on the tax rolls.
Council members debated the issue at a committee meeting Wednesday night, all agreeing that the city should see a detailed cost analysis before jumping at an offer from the Norwich accounting firm Cwynar and Company to purchase the former train depot at One City Plaza, where City Hall's housed, for $130,000. The idea is to relocate city offices and the eight employees who work there to the vacant third floor of the fire station next door.
The council says that there would be obvious benefits to putting the building in private hands: utility savings, spared cost of facility maintenance and insurance, and additional tax revenue from returning the property to the local tax roll. The property's listed with a $300,000 taxable value on the 2019 assessment roll.
But there are sticking points. The council doesn't have details of how the building will be used, numbers associated with moving city offices, or a plan to execute the relocation process. What's more, council members have received feedback from city residents who argue One City Hall is a community asset and that the city simply shouldn't sell.
Nonetheless, the council can't drag its feet on a decision, said City Mayor Christine Carnrike.
“The first decision you make when you're buying a house is, am I going to buy a house or not,” Carnrike said, noting that the city has received half a dozen offers on the building in recent years, including one more offer since the city started entertaining the idea in June. “That's what the City Council has to decide: Is the city planning to stay at One City Plaza?”
City officials purchased the building in the early nineties. More than $367,000 was spent to outfit the building in 1997 so that city offices could move there from where they had previously been located – in the fire station.
Another $140,000 was spent on renovating the third floor of the fire station five years ago. The city's best use for the third floor has always been to house City Hall, though city officials never followed through with a plan of action.