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Black Hawk City Council holds first meeting in new digs

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Enthusiastic crowd gathers for reception

By Patty Unruh

Black Hawk City Council members gathered with about forty family members, friends, and associates on September 25 to celebrate the completion of the remodeling at 211 Church Street. All agreed it was worth the wait and the $1.5 million spent on the building’s renovation. It was the first time in two years that the Council had met in the building, which has been designated as a local historical building. Offices housed in the building besides the City Council chambers are City Planning and Development and the Finance Office.

Prior to the Council’s regular meeting, Mayor David Spellman welcomed the Council and guests. “This project represents a prodigious and remarkable repurposing of a very historic and iconic building in the City of Black Hawk,” he stated. “It is stunning to realize that this second floor, these council chambers, did not exist prior to this renovation. These chambers are as much a museum as they are a public meeting room. Of all the projects we have accomplished since the inception of gaming, we should be proud, very proud, of this accomplishment.”

Spellman also said, “This project represents the manifestation of Black Hawk’s motto: Preserving the Past, Preparing for the Future, Still Making History.”

To specially commemorate the occasion, a new tradition was inaugurated. The mayor’s parents, William and Dolores Spellman, were present to open the Council meeting by ringing the large bell in the building’s steeple. Every meeting going forward will be opened by the ringing of the bell. The mayor said, “My mother has been referred to as ‘Mother Black Hawk,’ a moniker which pleases her.”

Guests admired the combination of modern construction and historical integrity in the chamber. As visitors arrive at the second floor landing, they may view displays of surveys from the City’s history, as well as the City’s charter from 1864. In the chamber itself, a triangular window at the front of the room invites eyes to travel upward to the wooden-beamed ceiling. The Aldermen are seated behind a paneled partition that exudes quiet dignity. There is plenty of comfortable seating for people attending meetings.

The City has also incorporated modern technology, with a large television screen on the wall above the Aldermen’s seating area for presentations and messages and a new sound system installed by Ford AV. “The system is so much better than the system we had before,” noted Jeanie Magno, Black Hawk City Clerk. “You can hear who is speaking and who makes motions.”

“Heritage panels” line the chamber’s walls, naming all of the City’s elected officials from 1864 through today.  The panels name those who helped in the founding and building of Black Hawk, show the people who kept Black Hawk in existence through some tough times, and name those who ushered in the new era of gaming in Black Hawk. The mayor said he was unaware of any city that had traced its history with such diligence and recognized Kelly Stevens, Deputy City Clerk, for the work Stevens had done on the research.

Spellman also thanked Vince Harris of Baseline; Nathan Pillatzke, PEH Architect; Deon Wolfenbarger, Three Gables Preservation; Matt Reed, Project Manager for City of Black Hawk; and Cindy Linker, Community Planning and Development Administrator for the City of Black Hawk.

After the mayor’s opening remarks, the Council held a short meeting. They approved a bill for an ordinance amending the Black Hawk Municipal Code by adding a new article regarding retail marijuana establishments and also approved a resolution granting a partial exemption from provisions in the Black Hawk Municipal Code relative to Monarch Growth. See the Weekly Register-Call’s story on the meeting for details.

The meeting was followed by a reception, with guests enjoying coffee and a trio of cakes decorated with the three parts of Black Hawk’s motto. People commented on the beauty and functionality of the building and took a tour of the other offices and the building’s modern kitchen.

Brook Svoboda, the planning director from 2000 to about 2005, was on hand to view the finished product. “It’s fabulous,” he said.

As visitors chatted, several recalled the condition of the building before the remodel. “It was wildlife central,” noted Cindy Linker, “with mice, squirrels, and raccoons living here. We used foam board to stop drafts, but it was really cold.” The walls were water stained and overgrown with moss.

Tami Archer, administrative assistant for Community Planning and Development, explained that the building was originally a Presbyterian church, until 1909, when it was used as the school gym. “That was until 1960,” she said. “Then it sat empty until 1993, when the City bought it.”

During the two-year renovation, the offices were housed in various locations in Black Hawk.

Brian Buringa, superintendent of Big Valley Construction of Granby, commented on the work. “We had to jack the building up. We removed the old stone foundation and put in concrete.” He also said that rotted timbers were removed and replaced, but that they were able to reuse some of the wood. All the mechanicals were updated. “It was a fun project,” he enthused. They had to stay within historical guidelines, but the job was helped by access to some historic photographs.

Office staff moved into the building on Friday, September 20 and unpacked boxes and set up the offices on Monday the 23rd.

Be sure to stop in and visit!

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