Talent's new city hall on Mail Street is scheduled to open Monday, July 30. 7/27/07 Denise Baratta

City Hall debut a step forward for Talent

After years of planning and building, Talent's spacious, well-lighted $2.8 million City Hall (see correction note below)opens Monday morning, and the early reviews are glowing.

Accented by gables, six columns and a broad, tiled entry, the new City Hall replaces a humble, cramped cinder-block structure that Talent government has endured for 38 years.

"It looks real nice. It makes Talent look like a nice, cozy little town — a definite improvement," said Lisette Vail, serving lunches at Downtown Coffee House.

City workers spent the last two weeks packing up boxes and handing them to public works employees, who marched them the 100 yards across the new, grassy commons. Much new furniture was unloaded Friday — and some of the old will continue to serve duty.

"It's an amazing building and I'm very excited," said Leslea Heiken, the new "face of Talent" who will greet all comers at a wide, modern reception desk in the spacious lobby. Previously, City Hall visitors were met by a couple workers crammed behind musty cubbies, with barely space enough to turn their chairs.

The City Hall is the crown jewel of the town's new civic center — which includes the new county branch library, depot building (rebuilt with historical accuracy from old photos, next to the train tracks), a stage with a grassy area, playground, restroom building and rebuilt central streets.

"We've just come from the 19th century to the 21st century in one leap," said City Manager Betty Wheeler. "The only thing I'll miss about the old building is the low operating cost, like the little furnace that we had in the closet to heat the building."

Taking in the sweep of the new building's clean lines, Wheeler said the Civic Center Planning Committee that envisioned it was "committed to making a City Hall we could be proud of for 100 years. A lot of city halls are adapted from school houses or other buildings but this one was built for a municipal government."

Assistant City Planner Colin May, who was using a different skill in electronics to help wire the telecom room, said, "It's going to be great, a big upgrade from the previous. There's no comparison. It was old and we'd outgrown it."

The old City Hall will be occupied by the police department for the next eight months, while its17-year old, 2,000 square feet of offices on Talent Avenue are refurbished and nearly doubled in size to meet modern standards of police work, said Wheeler.

Facing the new City Hall, the right side houses the building inspector, planning and conference room. A center section is for heating and air conditioning, maintenance, supply, archives, recreation and a large work area. The left area houses the mayor's office, city manager, finance and lunch room — with utilities (and a place to talk about your bill) next to the reception desk.

"It's a beautiful building. It's been a lot of work getting in there, but we're pretty excited," said Amanda Springer, who planned her move to avoid missing a beat in the peak of the utility collection cycle.

"We're going to be more effective and organized, able to hire the staff we need," said Cheryl Nicolay, administrative assistant to Wheeler.

The city hall will host a public reception and tour at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 26. One piece of downtown's municipal puzzle — the new library completed earlier this year — won't be on display. Along with other county library branches, it has been closed since April.

"It's the missing cornerstone and is the next focus of our attention, getting it reopened," said Wheeler, noting the council is looking at a utility surcharge and county money to do just that.

The 2,300-square-foot City Hall is laid out to allow expansion — a city hall chamber coming off the right part of the lobby (facing it) and an activities room to be built off the rear. Both expansions are far down the road, awaiting funding.

The council will continue to meet in the large 1899 Community Center building off the old City Hall.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

Correction: The original version of this story included an incorrect figure for the cost of the new Talent City Hall. This version has been corrected.

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