NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Department's Central Office may be taking over the second floor of City Hall.
Mayor Thomas Bernard said the discussions are still in the early stages but his administration is working with Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas to see if the co-habitation is a suitable option.
"We're at a moment now that they have a lease that's coming due, so, it's do we up for another cycle?" he said on Wednesday. "The more I thought about it, the more I see the savings on the school side that can be put toward a different use ... and the efficiencies you get bringing all of city government together."
Central Office was moved into the second floor of the Berkshire Plaza in 2013 when it was required to move out of what was then Conte Middle School, which was about to undergo a $30 million reconstruction. The initial three-year lease for the 12,000 square feet was continued another two years, with the lease budget for fiscal 2018 at $78,000.
Malkas said the current lease ends in October and that the School Department has to decide if it should stay or find another location.
"There's a will to look at this," she said on Wednesday.
Bernard, who took office on Jan. 1, vowed during his campaign to look at ways to make city operations more efficient in both process and cost. After being in the building a few weeks now, he said he's leaning toward the idea of moving the School Department.
It's not clear what reconstruction would have to be done or how much it would cost, but the mayor, who is also the School Committee chairman, said it's worth scoping out.
City Hall has about 22,000 square feet over two floors, and another 6,000 or so in the basement. The idea at this point is to move the School Department to the second floor, and move those city offices on the second floor to the first floor.
The number of employees at City Hall has declined dramatically since its opening in 1974, when it also hosted Northern Berkshire District Court. The School Department's Central Office has also seen number of job consolidations and departures — about 10 fewer employees since it was looking for space five years ago.
City Hall has a number of empty or near empty offices and small conference areas, including the Law Library on the first floor.
The mayor and his executive team would move into the former judge's chamber and empty court offices, creating an "executive suite." Members of the financial team would also be clustered together.
What would stay on the second floor is the corner office but it would be used as the mayor's executive conference room.
"That's the room that would give you have the heft and the weight" along with a view making it suitable for receiving dignitaries or holding meetings, Bernard said.
The corner office looks out on Main Street and West Main; it also has a small kitchen and boardroom, and a large office space for the administrative assistant and other secretaries. There is only Michelle Ells, Bernard's new administrative assistant, in the office. Rosemari Dickinson and Darci Lampiasi now work out of the new Public Services building on Hodges Cross Road.
"We're looking at can we make all those pieces fit," Bernard said. "It's all a process. We can use this space more effectively, we can use this space more efficiently."
The mayor cautioned that these are still very preliminary plans that would have to be fleshed out through further discussions and cost estimates. How the School Department and the city would share the cost of running City Hall would also have to be worked out.
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