SILER CITY — A town hall not only serves as a public gathering place, but it’s often a symbol of the community in which it resides.
Siler City’s town hall — located at 311 N. 2nd Ave. — was constructed more than 80 years ago and, in 2020, significant renovations on the building began.
Three years later, with some work left to be completed in the basement and the courtroom, town hall is open to the public — with a new look and improved facilities.
The News + Record was given an exclusive tour of the renovated town hall by town staff, including Town Clerk Kimberly Pickard, Town Manager Hank Raper and various department directors.
A video version of the tour is posted on chathamnewsrecord.com, but here are some highlights:
The first stop on the tour was the basement, which is where the Public Works Department is housed. Because renovations are still ongoing, it’s still off-limits to the public.
Public Works Director Cal Pettiford showed the News + Record the updated public works department, which has new carpets and paint. Major work had to be completed in the basement after contractors discovered water coming into the basement from the walls.
According to town officials, the water would seep from the gutters and roof into the walls, flowing between the exterior and interior walls and down to the basement. Because of this, contractors installed grates, water pumps and drainage systems to prevent water from flowing and collecting in the basement floors.
Also located in the basement is a room with a billing counter, old carpeting, a brick divider and more; it’s where the License Plate Agency used to be located. The carpet will be replaced with the same carpet used in the initial basement renovations, and the counters will be extended out so they’re big enough for patrons to use. The brick divider will also be removed at a later date.
The department will also have a break room across from Pettiford’s office.
The First Floor
The first floor of town hall is home to water billing, the Community Development Department, Code Enforcement and the Planning Department. This is where the public can get a first glance at what renovations were completed in the last three years.
Those familiar with the building will notice new light blue-gray paint and woodgrain flooring throughout both the first and second floors. The renovations help brighten the space, staff said.
The offices on the first floor were also renovated, meaning department and staff were moved around. The Planning Department is still located on the right when upon entry at the front of the building, but now the office is occupied by Planning Director Jennifer Baptiste. The former occupant, Community Development Director Jack Meadows, is down the hall in a conjoined office with Code Enforcement Officer Chris Gallimore.
The water billing department is still located on the first left from the front door; it hasn’t yet been renovated.
The back entrance to town hall — which serves as the entrance for the Siler City courtroom — will have an ADA-accessible wheelchair ramp installed in the coming months.
The courtroom and manager’s office
The second floor of town hall houses the courtroom — it’s where commissioners hold their meetings. It’s also home to the offices of the town manager, town clerk and budget manager.
The courtroom is one of the most renovated spaces in the building. Most of the divider between the gallery and the judge’s bench was removed, leaving room for additional seating and flexibility for the room’s use.
The Chatham County District and Superior Court use the Siler City courtroom as a second location for legal proceedings, and there are still ongoing projects in process to get the space ready to hold court again. The main renovation left to complete is installing the state-mandated AV systems all courts in North Carolina utilize. The AV system will also improve the sound quality of board of commissioners meetings for residents who watch them on Zoom or YouTube.
The manager’s wing, located to the left of both of the staircases leading to the second floor, was repainted and redecorated. Pickard’s office and Budget Manager Jenifer Johnson’s office are located to the left and right, respectively, as one enters the short hallway leading to Raper’s office.
Raper’s office and the conjoined conference room attached to it are located at the end of the small hallway to the left of the staircase. The new carpet and paint smell still permeate through the space, but one of the newest additions to the space is located in the conference room attached to the main office.
A large screen television and AV system were installed in the conference room, which Raper said is designed to help host meetings with out-of-town entities. He said the conference room had been utilized to negotiate the Special Order by Consent with N.C.’s Dept. of Environmental Quality, meeting with Wolfspeed officials and more.
The News + Record’s Taylor Heeden recorded a video tour of town hall, which is viewable on www.chathamnewsrecord.com.
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.