I got a sneak preview of the new Twisp Civic Building earlier this week — I suppose you could call it a privilege of the press, except that the building was technically open to the public as of Monday so it wasn’t really an exclusive.
That said, I did enjoy special treatment. My escort and tour guide was Mayor Soo Ing-Moody, who was justifiably proud to show me around, while noting that there were still a few details to finish up inside — like unpacking cartons involved in the staff’s move into the new facility during the previous week.
People are still clearly getting used to the space — mainly, to the idea of having any space at all after working out of the old Town Hall and then in cramped interim quarters while the new building was under construction. But the building is functional and staff were evidently pleased to be settling in.
You may recall the old Town Hall, a worn out, overtaxed and frankly unwelcoming place that could barely accommodate municipal functions. It was structurally suspect — someone once speculated that an errant pickup truck could bring it down — and beyond rehabilitation or expansion. The Town Council meeting space was smaller than a typical living room, with the council crowded around a small table, staff jammed into the corners, and the attending public arrayed in a few chairs along the walls. It was hardly a comfortable place to host or conduct town business.
The new council meeting room is spacious, airy and set up to seat a lot of people for council meetings or other community gatherings. It’s also the central hub for regional emergency center operations, a function that was incorporated into planning and design nearly since the building’s inception a decade or so ago. Hence all the big screens on the walls. Council members will sit at an elevated platform in front of microphones and nameplates. The formality of it may take some getting used to.
There’s also another smaller, well-equipped meeting space that’s about the size of the old council meeting space, and a staff kitchen area.
The police department has its own section of the building with controlled entry. There’s an interview room that you probably never want to see the inside of, and an office for the chief. There’s inside parking for the department’s vehicles.
The mayor and public works director will also have their own offices. At the southwest corner of the building is a staff meeting room with large windows looking out on Glover Street and the new plaza — what Ing-Moody said is, literally, transparency of government at work.
The whole building is “wired” with the most up-to-date technology to support not only the staff but also the emergency communications operations that will housed there when necessary.
Oh, and there are public bathrooms — an amenity that many downtown businesses and organizations have long clamored for.
The public enters the building through a set of double doors into a vaulted, skylit hallway that leads to the council chambers — echoing the Frank Lloyd Wright architectural motif of moving through a small space to a large space, creating a dramatic sense of entry. I like the building’s overall design as well, but I suppose that’s subjective.
The colors and finishings, inside and out, are deliberately chosen to reflect the community’s history, Ing-Moody said, including attractive use of wood throughout.
Work was still continuing this week on the street, sidewalk and plaza improvements which will create a pleasant setting around the building, especially for pedestrians. No, Glover Street will not be closed, contrary to some cranky and unfounded rumors (disinformation is everywhere these days).
The building’s opening has been delayed by a succession of factors: COVID; construction bids that exceeded estimates; searches for adequate funding; and supply chain issues. That’s not uncommon with major projects these days; problem-solving is part of the process. The town staff and elected officials persevered to make sure the building reached full realization. Its cost is largely supported by state and federal grants and loans, making it a relative bargain for town residents.
Appropriately, there will be grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration this Saturday (Oct. 29) from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Make it a point to be there for tours, music and food, even if you don’t live in Twisp. If you do, you’ll be impressed and perhaps feel some civic pride. You should. It’s a facility a growing, forward-looking town deserves.