A study presented to the City Council has confirmed what city staff members have known for years: Orange has far outgrown its Civic Center.
City departments, overflowing the 1960s Civic Center complex, are scattered into nearby trailers and leased office space. Within five years, the space crunch could more than double, said Bob Hall, a vice president of the Davis/Olsen Corp., a consultant hired to study the problem. The Civic Center is at least 39,000 square feet short of what it needs, he said.
The Davis/Olsen study is the first step toward planning the future of the Civic Center. The council has yet to decide whether the current complex will be gutted and reorganized or demolished. Meanwhile, provisions must be made to ease the squeeze until a new complex is ready.
The study recommends that the city create a five-year interim plan to ease problems but that it devote most of its resources to a long-range plan that will serve Orange through 2015.
"At the end of five years you will be in a very serious situation unless you have an alternative to move into," warned Betty L. Davis, president of Davis/Olsen.
The complex's overhaul is long overdue, said City Clerk Marilyn J. Jensen, who has been a city employee since 1965. City employees complain of poor heating and air conditioning and inadequate bathroom facilities. The center began to get cramped in the late 1970s, but the past few years have been extremely uncomfortable, she said.
"There's no conference space, the desks are so close together that when someone sneezes you put your hands over \o7 your \f7 mouth, there's no place to file, there's no privacy," Jensen complained. "When this building was designed, it was adequate for the people they had then. It was not built to serve the clientele of the 1990s."
Davis projects that in 25 years the city will need to nearly double its staff to 1,010 people to serve a projected population of 180,000. The plan includes a Civic Center Annex in East Orange that will serve about 35,000 residents who are expected to settle in the massive development scheduled for that area.
So far there is no cost estimate on the project, but one thing is certain.
"Whatever it is, it's not going to be cheap," Hall said. "But (the new complex) will serve them over the next quarter-century, and they can plan to finance it over that period of time."