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The City Journals

Herriman City to explore possible sale of former city hall

May 21, 2018 11:31AM ● By Travis Barton

The new city hall where Herriman City relocated its offices in August 2017. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | tr[email protected]

Herriman City officials will explore options to sell the Herriman Community Center, the former city hall, after a unanimous vote from the city council on May 9. Prior to the grand opening of the new city hall last year, the community center served as the municipality’s headquarters.

Located at 13011 South Pioneer Street, the community center was declared surplus by the council vote. The vote also determined that a minimum bid be established at its appraised value (almost $1.7 million) and directs city staff to “establish a method to determine the highest and best economic return to the city.” 

The decision comes after months of discussions surrounding the building, its purpose in the community and its financial viability.

City officials said maintenance and operating costs for the building were too high—approximately $110,000 annually with no offsetting revenues—especially not with other needs the city wants to address, according to city councilmembers. 

Councilman Jared Henderson said he had a hard time matching the sentiment with the fiscal price tag, notably when the city’s job is to provide necessary services.  

Herriman City Council declared the community center, and former city hall, as surplus property allowing city staff to find the best economic return to the city. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

 “Really, what I see is this (city hall) was built to completely replace the old and look toward the future. I’m having a hard time justifying the other one on pretty much sentiment when this was intended to replace it and carries a hefty price tag to do so,” Henderson said prior to the vote during the May 9 city council meeting. He would later say, “(when it) boils down to it, we are kind of out of time, and it would be, in my opinion, fiscally irresponsible of us to just hang onto (the building).”

He added if there was a funding mechanism to offset even some of the cost, then maybe they could justify it, but he never saw a solution, “only additional costs.”

City staff explored the option of renting out building space to private entities, but Operations Manager Monte Johnson said, “Anytime we change the use from municipal use, we lose our tax exempt on that building, so then we would be required to pay property taxes on that to (Salt Lake) County.” Those property taxes would incur almost $30,000 more.

Councilman Clint Smith said he struggled to foresee a feasible option without requiring additional cost. Though he did suggest with any potential sale of the building those funds go toward preserving other historical sites in the city. 

The building will not be sold immediately as a result, Henderson explained this vote merely gives city staff the “opportunity” to engage with professionals and “vet out options” for the building. 

The decision was met with frustration by parts of the community that urged the city to keep the building or give them more time to find financial solutions.

Michelle Baguley, a former Herriman city council member, led a campaign called the Herriman Promise Foundation Working Group to save the center. She asked the council to keep a promise made by a previous city council, one she served on, that made an agreement with the intent the building would always remain.

“The promise was made that the community center would be used for the community’s future use,” she said. “That intention was not to be sold to be used for something else. The intention of that promise was that it would be used for the community such as a senior center, 4H clubs or a safe place for youth.”

Resident Leah Church told the council prior to the vote that reneging on a promise made by a previous city council diminishes the council’s integrity and credibility going forward. 

“I feel like once it’s contracted and a decision has been promised, I feel like it should be honored,” she said. “And I honestly think that’s what this all comes down to. Some things pay for themselves in other ways instead of just monetary.” 

Councilwoman Sherrie Ohrn said if the previous council didn’t want the building to ever be sold, then that language should have been included in the original agreement. 

The agreement states that if the property is no longer in the city’s best interest, then the city “shall use the property for a public and/or community purpose that will promote recreational, charitable, or any other purpose that is in the interest of the public” then the city would either name the building after the Lions Club or “erect a suitable monument, memorial or plaque.” 

Ohrn argued that language is too wide open ,while Henderson said for a council to commit future generations doesn’t make sense and isn’t fair.

“While I understand the sentiment of what that particular council wanted, we’re told every time we make a decision, we can’t legally bind a future council to anything,” Henderson said. 

He added other residents have told him Herriman needs parks and roads asking how the city can keep a building that was replaced with a newer version.

That new version, city officials said, can serve the same uses as the community center. Organizations can use city hall as a location to meet.

“There are spaces that can accommodate small groups and large groups, so use it,” Ohrn told the audience during the city council meeting. “We’re paying for this building, so we might as well use it and get the full benefit of it possible. None of us voted to build or not build it. But it’s here, so let’s utilize it for the purpose it was erected. 

Residents also asked for more time to find a solution. Baguley requested an additional year or two. But Henderson said an additional two years could come out to a quarter of a million dollars; he felt it would be fiscally irresponsible to do so. 

Baguley wrote on Facebook after the meeting: “I want to thank the members of the community and our Promise Foundation associates who stood beside us, in our campaign to #savethecommunitycenter. Although the outcome was not as we had hoped, it was an honor to serve beside you in this endeavor to keep a promise.”