New City Hall building a perfect fit for Calera

CALERA – Even though the city of Calera’s new City Hall building looks brand new, the facility is still possesses some of the city’s history.

Calera Mayor Jon Graham said the 14,000 square-foot building was designed to look like an old train depot. It features a clock tower, which was a common fixture at train stations, and a long boarding deck where patrons stood awaiting their train.

“The city was known as a railroad town about 100 years ago,” Graham said. “It’s all a part of the city’s history and theme that we were going for.”

The new City Hall sits on two acres of land that used to house Bird Building Material on U.S. 31, just north of the intersection with Highway 25. Graham said some of the structural steel from the old building was repurposed for the new facility. The city even repurposed the concrete foundation of the old building and extended it a few yards to make the city hall a bit bigger. The Bird Building Material facility was about 10,000 square feet.

The project cost a total of $2.5 million, Graham said.

“We’re really proud of it and are excited to have something new,” he said. “We’re just like big kids at Christmas.”

Graham said the city had outgrown the original City Hall building so much that employees had to share offices.

“Now we have room to grow as the city grows. And we did all of the moving ourselves,” he said. “We didn’t hire anyone to move us.”

The facility features a courtroom/council chamber that can hold about 250 people comfortably, Graham said. The room could also be used to hold meetings or work-related training sessions.

In the back of the courtroom sits a holding area for criminals. The holding room is equipped with a window so that the judge has direct view into the room, and audio so that the judge can speak to the inmates without them having to leave the holding area. Each interior door of the facility is also equipped with a keypad entry system.

A safe room is also built into the council conference room, which is outfitted with a concrete and brick table with 28 chairs around it. The safe room, which is built according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s guidelines, has concrete walls that reinforced with steel.

“In my opinion, any new public building should have a safe room for its employees,” Graham said. That’s what this council conference room accomplished.”

During normal City Hall business hours, Graham said the safe room will be open to city employees and the public. If severe weather occurs after normal business hours, residents can use the city’s storm shelter, which sits adjacent to Calera Elementary School and holds about 150 people.

The outside of City Hall is fitted with a kiosk that allows residents to pay their bills without having to go inside of City Hall. Residents can also drop off their payments in a drop box located outside of the building.

But Graham said perhaps one of the most popular new additions to City Hall among the employees is the crushed ice machine that Graham surprised employees with.

“Now that won me some brownie points,” he said.

The city’s police department has now completely taken over the old city hall building and is in the process of renovating it to fit their needs. Prior to the construction of the new city hall, the city and the police department shared the facility.

The extra space has allowed the police department to install a new dispatch center with two consoles. Previously the dispatch center only had enough space to staff one person at a time, but has recently shifted to two employees on staff at once.

And the police department still has room to grow in the facility, Graham said.