‘Earth, water and hard work:’ Ivins christens new City Hall

IVINS — Ivins dedicated its new City Hall on Friday, one year and nine months after designs were first shown on poster board.

(L-R): Ivins council member Derek Larsen, Mayor Chris Hart, council member Sue Gordhammer, former Mayor Chris Blake and council member Cheyne McDonald cut the ribbon officially opening the new Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 4, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Around 60 people were on hand around noon to get an inside peek of the new $4.5 million building at 85 Main Street that sits just north of the original city hall. At 15,000 square feet, it is nearly twice the size of the old city hall and has an innovative solar energy and geothermal heating and cooling system that gives it a net-zero footprint. 

Chris Hart, who at 72 has been mayor of Ivins since 2010 and was tentatively reelected to what he said is his last term this week, keeps using words like “extraordinary” and “spectacular” to not only describe the building itself but the effort that had it built. 

“They were able to get this building done on time and on budget. And I think it’s unheard of right now,” Hart said. “You can’t do that.”

In the video above, join Mayor Chris Hart and St. George News on a tour of the new Ivins City Hall.

Along with Hart, council members Derek Larsen, Sue Gordhammer and Cheyne McDonald represented the current Ivins City Council at the ribbon-cutting and, depending on finalization of a razor-thin election margin, future council members Lance Anderson and Mike Scott were also on hand. 

The Heritage Sculpture, which was formerly in the middle of a roundabout on Center Street, now sits next to the new Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 4, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Commissioners Gil Almquist and Adam Snow represented the Washington County Commission.    

Also in the audience and recognized during the ceremony in the new council chambers was Chris Blake, who was Ivins’ first mayor after it became an incorporated city and before that was instrumental in the building of the first Ivins City Hall, then a town hall, next door in March 1995 before cityhood. 

At $500,000, the original city hall cost eight times less to build than the new city hall. But it was also built when Ivins was still a town and designed for 15 years of growth. It managed to get another decade in.

Reports in the Spectrum in March 1995 talk about the then-new town hall being “looked with envy,” with a Washington County Commission secretary noting of the council chamber, “Look, they even have microphones.” 

The windows in the council chamber of the new Ivins City Hall provides a panoramic view of Red Mountain, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 5, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“We didn’t know if we would ever fill it up and more than filled it. This is a monument to how well the city has progressed,” Blake told St. George News. “We knew that sooner or later, we would outgrow that. And I think they’ve used the space extremely well over there. Mayor Hart says this one may last to the end of the time. Maybe not, but it could.”

The old city hall, which was mostly cleared out last week, is in the process of being converted into a new headquarters for the Santa Clara-Ivins Police.

The new council chamber in 2021 not only has microphones but the latest in interconnectivity and is capable of being entirely powered by the sun and heated or cooled by water rather than traditional air conditioning. 

The new city hall, with wide-open office spaces, is designed with 100 years of growth for the city in mind. There is still the ability to expand the building to the west, if needed.

The two-foot-thick central wall of the new Ivins City Hall, which is its main feature. It is meant to symbolize earth, water and work, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 5, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The theme of the building is marked by its central feature: A two-foot-thick central wall that Hart said is meant to symbolize earth, water and work.

The wall was created using a conveyer system and workers laying down local sand and rock in different layers, then adding water and a hardening agent before being squeezed down by workers with electric tampers.

The theme comes from the building of a canal in the 1910s through Red Mountain from Gunlock that made it possible for the Ivins area to be farmed. 

“What Ivins City is, is red dirt, water and hard work. And the architects condensed that into a theme,” Hart said. 

Attendees at the new Ivins City Hall seen during its ribbon-cutting, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 5, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Representing some of that hard work is Jeff Horrocks, who supervised the daily construction at the site for Hughes Contractors. After previously leading the building of several schools in St. George and Cedar City, hospitals in Salt Lake City and sites in Nashville, this was Horrocks’ last project before retirement.

He said he’s going out with the best project he’s ever worked on.

“Very few times in your life this kind of building comes into you that you can enjoy,” Horrocks said. “It had some challenges, but this is probably the nicest building I’ve ever worked on.”

The design was first presented in February 2020 to the Ivins City Council just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Southern Utah.  

As the council moved from council chambers to Zoom meetings, there were some conversation about whether it was the right time to build such an ambitious project during the pandemic, even though the $4.5 million City Hall is paid mostly by the sale of other city property rather than any additional taxes or fees from Ivins residents.

Attendees at the new Ivins City Hall seen during its ribbon-cutting, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 5, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

But in what Hart still calls a “courageous” move, the council pressed on even in a time of uncertainty. At the time, Hart suggested it would actually be an advantage to press on and take advantage of what he said would be cheaper prices for building supplies

With the present supply-chain stoppages and the rising prices of many supplies, that suggestion proved to be prescient. 

“The contractor told me that if they had bid it three or four months ago, it would have cost us well over a million dollars more money,” Hart said. “So for the council to authorize this at the time, they literally saved the city over a million dollars.”

The construction of the new City Hall couldn’t completely escape the present supply-chain clog up. The building’s flag poles are still stuck in shipping, as are video monitors for the lobby.

“That’s been on back order for months,” Hart said. “I said, ‘I’ll run down to Costco and pick one up.’” 

Hart is not kidding when he said his favorite room is the equipment room. It actually appears to have more open space than his office and holds the main controls for the buildings unique geothermal heating and cooling system. 

The spacious equipment room at the new Ivins City Hall includes the main controls for the buildings unique geothermal heating and cooling system, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 5, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Pipes lead from there 325 feet below the parking lot, getting water, bringing it up into the building and either keeping at its normal 65 degrees or heated, then pumped to individual air conditioning units in each room that can still each be individually climate controlled.

With solar panels, the building generates all its power. The power meters will at times be moving backwards, though in the future surplus power will be supplied into additional backup batteries.

For all the technology, Hart said he hopes no one who calls the building their workplace forgets who their real bosses are.

“This building is owned by our residents,” Hart said. “It’s their building.”

Editor’s note: Age of Mayor Chris Hart corrected.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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