Farragut Town Hall will be temporarily closing sometime this summer for 12 to 18 months for much-needed renovations, as only minor updates to the building have taken place since it was constructed in 1991.
Many parts of the plan are up in the air — including cost — while officials consider how best to relocate staff and programs. One definite during the closure is Town meetings will be relocated to Farragut Community Center.
“We had a trial run for our meetings at the Community Center during COVID,” Mayor Ron Williams explained. “But we will need a place to put 30 to 32 members of our staff and are looking at our options.”
Officials have been discussing potential updates and changes to Town Hall for at least two years, but initial plans would have been constructed in phases, as money and time allowed.
However, with part of the American Recovery Plan Act funds that became usable, the project will occur more quickly than originally expected.
The Town fiscal year 2022 Budget listed $3,527,626 in overall ARPA funding, and the same for 2023.
“Those funds can only be used for specific projects, including stormwater improvements,” Williams said.
The Town already funded multi-year stormwater improvements in current and future budgets, funds which can now be reallocated to other key projects.
Williams was not ready to put a dollar amount on the project due to the ongoing study.
He said Town administrator David Smoak has already been working with a design architect on the best use of Town Hall space.
Shutting down Town Hall and renovating all at once, instead of in phases, “will save money, and also allow the updates to happen more quickly if there is full access to the building,” Williams said.
So far, specific planned changes include:
• Relocating Knox County Clerk’s satellite office from the second floor to what is now Town Hall’s Community Room.
“What I would love to do is have the Clerk’s office done first,” Williams said. “It already has its own entrance, and we could possibly have it open and ready to go when we have to shut the rest of the building down.”
• Relocating administrative offices from the first to second floor.
• Expansion of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting room.
• Construction of exterior bathrooms near the Town’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield playground (already approved).
“I don’t believe the playground will be shut down while Town Hall is shut down,” Williams said. “We may have to have a one-way in and out during building construction. But it would be good to have the bathrooms built ahead of time.”
“What is driving all of this is efficiency,” he added. “Every time I walk in, I look to see what we can do better, and what our staff can do, to be more efficient.
“Right now, there are many distractions for our staff that we are working toward eliminating.”’