Jonesboro leaders approve plan to move City Hall

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Jonesboro City Council officially approved plans Tuesday night to relocate City Hall.

The council agreed to buy the Mercantile Center, located at 300 S. Church Street, and renovate it into the new City Hall.

"We feel like this is a great, great opportunity for the citizens," Mayor Harold Perrin said.

Perrin has actively worked since 2010 to consolidate the city's services under one roof. He says that goal was accomplished Tuesday, with the council voting to spend $2.9 million to purchase the Mercantile Center.

"Our whole deal is to take care of the customer, and that's the citizens," Perrin said. "Now you're going to have one-stop shopping in this facility."

The transaction includes trading in the current City Hall and its adjoining parking lots, valued at $1,060,373.

The mayor estimates that renovations to the Mercantile Center will not exceed $2.7 million, which would bring the total cost of this project to $6,678,043.

Perrin says the expense is worthwhile because the 67,580 square foot facility will accommodate growth and will provide a return on the initial investment.

"A lot of times, people will say well, how are you going to pay for this?" Perrin said. "Well, it'll be out of capital improvement. We have the funds on the loan, but we also have the revenue that will come in to offset that."

In April 2011, the city took out a $10.5 million line of credit at a rate of 2.37 percent to complete the new Public Works campus, the new fire station on Harrisburg Road and to fund the renovation and expansion of whatever location for City Hall and other administrative offices.

The city initially planned to add on about 25,000 square feet to its current City Hall, located at 515 W. Washington Avenue. The mayor, however, says moving to the Mercantile Center proved more cost effective upon further analysis, and the building has enough space to compensate for any future growth.

The mayor says relocating closer to downtown also became a priority during the decision making process.

"I think that the employees, once they see this and how it's going to work, they're going to be really excited about it," Perrin added. "It also is stability for downtown and the fact that that building has had several tenants. Eventually, it'll be the City of Jonesboro."

Residents like Cathy Coots say moving City Hall to the Mercantile Center will benefit stores and restaurants downtown as well.

"We're real proud of the fact that they're bringing all the business back downtown," Coots said. "It's a good thing."

The mayor says the city will likely close on the office building Friday.

With renovations set to begin shortly thereafter, he hopes most of the city's employees will be able to move into the new facility as early as April.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.