Seaford officials open doors to new city hall

By Ronald MacArthur

Under a hot August sun, with people shading themselves with the program and umbrellas, city officials and staff cut the ribbon on Sunday to “officially” open the new Seaford City Hall at 414 High Street. The open housewas for the public to get a first look at the city hall, but business will not be conducted in the building until Monday, Sept. 13. The first city council meeting will take place in the building on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 7:35 p.m. The time has been changed to allow the mayor and council members to attend the opening ceremony for The Moving Wall. After a 45-minute ceremony on the steps of the new city hall, the doors were open and the public was permitted in for the first time. The public also got its first view of the mural in the city council chambers painted by local artist Woody Woodruff. Mayor Dan Short called the new city hall “a symbol of excellence” referring to the city staff who worked on the project. “Our greatest asset is the people who will be sitting in this new building,” he said. Several presentations were made (framed photos of the new city hall with city seals) to members of the building committee, key staff, the mayor and city council, and others who worked on the project. The Rev. Sam McGarvey gave the invocation. Sally Higgins, the chairwoman of the building committee, spoke about the need for a new city hall. Presentations were made to committee members Charles Anderson, Ron Breeding, Edward Butler, Jr., John Hitch, Sally Higgins (chairwoman), Sharon Mears, Jim Mosley, Charles Butler, Jennifer Sammons, Shannon Sapna, Bill Slatcher, Dolores Slatcher, Mike Vincent, Amy Walls, Chad Tate on behalf of his father Norman Tate, and Lisa Tobin, on behalf of her father Emerson Langford. Woodruff and Wayne Sammons, who did the ceramic city seal work in the lobby, were presented with framed photos of their work. In addition, it was announced that Dave and Jane Webb had donated a weather vane to place atop the cupola on the new city hall. The mayor and council presented framed prints to five employees who spearheaded the city hall project: Dolores Slatcher, Charles Anderson, Mike Mulvaney, Amy Walls, Trisha Booth and former employee Shannon Sapna. City manager Slatcher thanked the mayor and council for their assistance and support: Mayor Dan Short and council members Edward Butler, Ron MacArthur, Grace Peterson, Larry Miller and Pat Jones. Charles Anderson, director of operations for the city, and Dolores Slatcher, city manager, offered a brief history of the new city hall. Anderson said that the process started in the mid-1990s. “There were problems with handicap accessibility, the mechanical, HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems along with the spatial needs for personal and storage of equipment, tools and records,” he said.
Anderson explained the steps city officials took to lay the foundation before the actual construction project started. He noted that when he estimate came in to renovate the existing municipal building on King Street, the process turned toward a new building. Anderson said that the city was presented with the opportunity to purchase the Peninsula Oil building on High Street. It was decided to buy the building and use it as the city council chambers and helped to alleviate part of the space problem at the old city hall. Half of the building was leased to George, Miles & Buhr. In the interim, the city council began the process of purchasing property around the intersection around High and Market streets. Slatcher said that the building project started with the appointment of a building committee in 2001. “The building committee held its first meeting the week following 9-11, so you can imagine the consensus and mood of the group was to be cautious in the path we were to take,” she said. “The committee wanted the city hall to appear legislative and be distinctive from other professional buildings,” she added. “They wanted it to be easily identifiable and a welcoming symbol for visitors.” Slatcher said the actual construction project was bid in the fall of 2002, ground was broken in December 2002, and work started in January 2003. George, Miles & Buhr (GMB) was hired as the engineer and CMSI won the bid as the general contractor. The anticipated completion date was the fall of 2003. Slatcher said that rough winter weather, a wet spring and “other unexpected challenges occurred causing a delayed completion.” Jim Thomas of GMB presented Slatcher with a framed print of the new city hall. Dignitaries in attendance included former council members Henry Nutter, Marshall Nesbitt and Donald Tull, county councilmen Dale Dukes and Finley Jones, State Sen. Robert Venables, John Schwed, mayor of Laurel, Brad Conner, mayor of Dagsboro, Kevin Smith, representing Sen. Joe Biden’s office, and Bill Slatcher, former Seaford mayor and state senator.

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