Dover school

Dover City Administrator Gary Peterson works in the new city hall office in the former Dover School on Friday. The room was Peterson's fourth-grade classroom years ago. (Ken Klotzbach/kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

DOVER — There are still some items to be transported the three blocks to the old school, but Dover City Hall is basically moved. 

On Thursday, the Dover City Council conducted its first meeting in its new council chambers, one of the old classrooms at the Dover School that was closed completely in 2016. 

The building was closed in 2016 after the Dover-Eyota School District moved all classroom operations to Eyota, and the last education tenant, the Hiawatha Valley Education District, let its lease on the building expire. 

The city bought the building from the school district for $1,501 in February 2017 and made about $20,000 worth of repairs to the building. Since then, it has been looking for uses for the building, and one use will be making the building home of city hall. 

Now the city is trying to decide what to do with the old city hall. On Thursday, the council discussed whether to have the building demolished or just sell the property, which includes a city maintenance shed on the same lot. 

"There's some value in the building," said Mayor Roger Ihrke. "The question is whether there's enough value to keep it or just sell and build a new building."

The council decided to pursue two options for the time being, getting price quotes to make a determination. The first option would be to have the old city hall demolished and the basement filled in, leaving a vacant area. The city would then continue to use the maintenance shed, which is home to some city equipment and is the overnight home to a Rolling Hills Transit bus.

Dover school

The city hall office in the former Dover School. (Ken Klotzbach/kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

Ihrke said Rolling Hills pays the city to park the bus in the heated garage. 

The second option, Ihrke said, would be to simply sell the property and both buildings — old city hall and the maintenance shed — together, then build a new maintenance shed either near the new city hall or on another piece of land owned by the city.

"We have plenty of land," Ihrke said. 

Part of the second plan would be getting an appraisal for the property and estimates on building a new maintenance shed. The city is also getting estimates to demolish old city hall.

In the meantime, the old school is finding new life as a sort of community center in Dover. There are dance classes for kids. A weekly pilates-yoga class is on temporary hold, but expected to restart soon. The city's exercise facility is in the basement of the school, and a monthly quilting group meets there.

All these groups — not to mention several reunions that have been held there — pay for the space, helping cover the costs of operating the building. 

At Thursday's meeting, the council voted to move its polling place for next year's elections to the new city hall in the old school. 

Ihrke said the city might consider upgrading the kitchen facilities at the building so it can be used by groups wanting to serve food. But that's a project for down the road. 

In the meantime, education has snuck back into the building.

"We do have little library in the building," Ihrke said. "It was put together by a couple volunteers, Jerry Dyba and his wife."

In other business:

The city council approved a preliminary property tax levy of $237,760 for 2020. That represents a 5 percent increase over the 2019 general budget levy, or $11,320. However, the overall levy for the city will go down because the city had been levying $20,000 for debt service to pay off a well project from almost 20 years ago, Ihrke said. 

However, the debt was paid off in January, so the debt service funds won't be levied for 2020, meaning the overall levy for 2020 will drop $8,680.

While that is good news for property taxes in Dover, the better news is the expansion of the tax base, said City Administrator Gary Peterson. 

Peterson said the tax base increased on several new and refurbished residential properties. There was also a $2.6 million cold storage facility added to the tax base. 

"Everybody's taxes should go down," Ihrke said.

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