Mona Shield Payne
Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 | 7:47 p.m.
- North Las Vegas packs up, moves into new digs (11-20-2011)
The new North Las Vegas city hall was filled with chatter, live music, dancing and a lighted Christmas tree as residents and city officials came out to celebrate the building’s grand opening Thursday night.
Members of the city council welcomed guests into the state-of-the-art council chambers — twice the size of the former chambers — complete with two projection screens displaying holiday messages.
“(This building) represents the resiliency of North Las Vegas,” said city manager Tim Hacker as he addressed a room full of excited patrons.
The grand opening was the first time many North Las Vegans got a real look at the brand new facility, which is opening in the midst of the city's $15.5 million budget deficit problem and in the wake of hundreds of employee layoffs.
Two weeks after the big move, services are fully up and running in the city hall. The $127 million LEED Silver-certified building now houses all city departments, excluding the police and fire departments and has conducted business for a couple weeks.
Public works director Qiong Liu told guests that the building was completed on time and more than $17 million under budget. Solar panels on the building save the city an estimated $250,000 a year Liu said, as well as the granite that has replaced concrete outside. In its peak, more than 300 construction employees worked on the nine-story city hall that overlooks much of the valley.
“When (guests) come into the building they can take care of their business at one stop,” Liu said.
Previously, city services were scattered through the old city hall, portables and leased office space across the street. Large offices and numerous conference rooms can be seen on every floor of the new facility. The first floor of the building houses the utilities and public works departments and a development services center where people can obtain business licenses, permits and pay bills. A spacious seating area awaits guests who can use new kiosks to print a service ticket for the task of their choosing.
Martin Petkov, a regular at the city hall, said some weeks he comes to the city hall every day to get permits for plumbing projects.
“The new building is more beautiful, definitely,” Petkov said. “It’s a little bit of a mess right now with the system. I think they need more time to fix everything.”
Petkov said he was glad that he doesn’t have to travel to separate buildings to complete errands. He said he thought the building was worth the money spent on it, even if the city was now in a financial bind.
“Everybody has got financial problems right now,” Petkov said.
Although the new furniture, flat-screen TVs and other technological devices gleam in the new building, most of the 23 service stations sit idle, with only four or five stations open at any given time.
Liu said the vacancy, which plagues every floor of the building, is due largely to the fact that the city has laid off hundreds of employees. The building was originally designed to house 500 employees, with room to grow. The city currently has 300 employees working in the city hall.
Former councilwoman Stephanie Smith, who sat on the council when the city hall was planned, attended Thursday’s grand opening. She and other members of the council have been criticized for what some people say was poor planning for a city that couldn’t afford the cost of a new building.
Smith said she was still proud to see the building through its completion.
“It’s nice to see dreams come true,” Smith said. “Despite the challenges of the times you still have to have vision. If we’d known then what we know now, who knows? But I believe in the future of North Las Vegas and moving forward is always the right thing to do.”