September 01, 2014 – Rob Earnshaw
The city’s planning and development department is moving to City Hall.
Currently based at 649 and 651 Conkey St., the dozen or so employees will have new accommodations at City Hall by the end of the year in a plan Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said made sense.
“We’re in the process right now of building out City Hall to compliment the new employees moving in,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to save us money no doubt about it. When you think about it, we have less than 20 employees in a huge building and it’s been that way for years, but we have room for them in City Hall.”
McDermott said more room became available because of employee downsizing at City Hall. When he took office the department had about 30 employees. There are currently 12.
McDermott said the Conkey site will be on the tax rolls because a for-profit business, Chicago-based Root Brothers Manufacturing and Supply Co., purchased the entire Conkey location, which includes an 80,000 square foot warehouse.
Phil Taillon, Hammond Department of Planning and Development executive director, said they’ve been using the warehouse to store items.
“We’ve always found if we could find a different warehouse to store items, we could potentially put this property on the market,” he said. “And really the reason Root Brothers is relocating to Hammond is because of the warehouse. The office portion we have here they may or may not use it. The warehouse is going to be where their main relocation happens.”
Taillon said when there’s a city budget shortage “you start looking at these types of opportunities where you can cut and become more efficient.”
“Our department works very closely with the building department and for us to be in the same building as them makes perfect sense,” he said.
Cost savings will come from the use of utilities and other resources which can now be shared at City Hall.
“The money we’ll save every year is going to be used in other areas. I’m very excited about the transition I think it’s going to be good for the city and good for everybody in the long run,” Taillon said.
At one time there were plans to move City Hall downtown but that was nixed because of budgetary issues.
“The mayor has always had a vision of moving City Hall downtown,” Taillon said. “At one time we talked about our office moving downtown as a first step and eventually City Hall would move downtown. Now with the budget issues we have it’s probably not going to happen at least not in the very near future. So it just made sense for us to make this change and move to City Hall now.”