The basement of the Hermiston Public Library, pictured here during a 2019 Halloween party, will be remodeled to serve as a temporary city hall.

Knerr Construction will complete a $910,000 remodel of the Hermiston Public Library’s basement, after the Hermiston City Council awarded the project to the Hermiston-based firm on Monday, July 27.

Once complete, the remodeled basement level will serve as temporary office space for city staff until the old city hall, damaged by a fire in December 2019, is repaired or replaced. After city staff move back out of the space, it will serve to expand the library’s book collection and children’s area.

City Manager Byron Smith said Knerr Construction came in $15,000 under the estimates of ArchitectsWest, which designed the remodel.

“We received five bids, which was a great turnout,” he said.

The remodel includes moving the bathrooms and some offices and removing little-used study rooms to create a large, open space that in the future would be easy for a single library employee to supervise if the library’s book collection and and reading areas were expanded to the basement.

Smith said the cost also includes improvements to the HVAC system, and rebuilding the ramps and sidewalks around the back entrance as required to meet Americans With Disabilities standards.

On July 27, the council also voted to approve a deal with Umatilla County for the planned new city hall on the site of the damaged city hall. The city plans to add about 5,000 square feet to the new city hall that are not currently needed for offices, but would be added with an eye toward future growth.

In exchange for using all or part of that space for up to 15 years, the county has agreed to give the city $2.6 million in enterprise zone funds generated by Lamb Weston and the county’s building at 435 E. Newport Ave., worth about $400,000. Smith said the city tentatively plans to exchange the Newport Avenue building with the owner of the Lanham Building next to city hall, which is needed to give the city enough room for its new, larger city hall.

The county would also pay a monthly maintenance fee to help cover costs, such as utilities and janitorial. The fee would start out at 40 cents per square foot — which Smith said would work out to $1,800 to $2,000 a month — and increase to 80 cents by year 11.

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