Harlem city officials hope that by the end of the year construction will begin to expand one city building and work will start on a new one.
City Administrator Jean Dove said architects are finalizing plans for an addition to the existing city hall building on Louisville Street, and for a new building that will house both the county's Head Start and Community Connections programs.
Dove said both projects should go out for bid later this month with bid openings by mid-November.
"We're hoping we can lump the two projects into one bid, part A and part B, and get a better price," Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said.
The city hall expansion will include doubling the size of city hall by adding a second building in the grassy area behind it.
City hall houses offices for the water billing clerk, city clerk and the accounts payable clerk. Offices for Dove, Dean, the city council, Planning and Zoning and Community Connections were moved in 2005 to a rented office behind the Harlem Department of Public Safety offices at the corner of Louisville and South Hicks streets.
Since some officers moved to the rented space, the city hall building was expanded by enclosing a back patio. The interior of the building also was repainted and recarpeted.
Dove said the project is estimated to cost $250,000 to $300,000 and should take four or five months to complete once construction begins. Interim funding, possibly including 1-cent sales tax money, will pay for the expansion.
The new facility for Head Start and Community Connections is slated to be constructed on four acres in the Harlem City Park that city officials recently purchased from Columbia County for $25,000.
"We're so excited," said Julie Miller, the executive director of Community Connections, which currently operates out of a few rooms in Harlem's city hall annex building and a small rented space on Louisville Road.
Community Connections employs four full-time staffers and four AmeriCorps members. Children use their limited facilities for after-school programs. Miller said the new facility will include plenty of room for after-school activities as well as work space for the staff.
"Hopefully, we'll have a computer lab (where students) can come and work on homework and basically get their grades up to par. All sorts of work-related skills we're trying to teach them as well," Miller said, adding the current facilities can only hold as many as 12 after-schoolers.
A $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $100,000 of matching city funds will pay for the construction.
The building plans include office, classroom and meeting space for Community Connections and Head Start and shared conference and restrooms. Miller said the location will be especially convenient because children will be able to enjoy the park as well.
Miller is hoping the building will be finished before the start of the 2008-2009 school year.
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