Vienna hires consultant to address cramped work conditions in town hall

A kid runs past Vienna Town Hall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna wants to give its employees more breathing room — literally.

Some space has been freed up in town hall by the Vienna Police Department’s criminal investigations bureau relocating to its recently completed station. The department’s transition to the new station will be conclude with its communications team moving in by the end of January, according to a spokesperson.

As a result, the town is reorganizing how it uses the town hall building at 127 Center Street South to maximize efficiency and relieve cramped conditions that relegated one worker to a ventilated computer server room, Town Manager Mercury Payton told the Vienna Town Council on Jan. 9.

“[That] probably wasn’t the best thing for his health. We’re going to be moving him out of that area into a vacated space,” Payton said. “So, we’ve already kind of determined internally ourselves some of our best moves, and then we’ve kind of gone as far as we can go.”

To assist with the reconfiguration, the town council approved a $84,900 contract for PMA Architecture to conduct an office space study. The consulting firm was chosen from 10 candidates based on its “innovative yet practical ideas” and experience working with smaller governments, Vienna Finance Director Marion Serfass said.

Built almost 60 years ago, town hall was last renovated in 2014 when it got a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, but there was little consideration of workplace layout at that time — an oversight that became apparent as Covid heightened concerns about the spread of disease.

About 47 employees work out of town hall, not including the 12 recently relocated police personnel, according to a request for proposals issued by the town in August.

While there hasn’t been a huge increase in staff, the services offered by the town have evolved and expanded, Serfass said.

“We’re focusing on economic development, we’re focusing on video content, we’re adding slightly to town hall staff,” she said. “Some of these additions are temporary, but some may become permanent, so town hall staff is sort of bursting at the seams right now.”

The funds for the space study come from Vienna’s American Rescue Plan Act allotment, which can be used to prevent the spread of disease in the workplace. The town previously used federal Covid relief money to install an air filtration system and Plexiglas barriers, among other needs, according to Serfass.

In addition to reviewing room layouts, equipment and storage space, the study will take security needs into account, PMA Architecture Principal Katie Stodghill told the town council.

“I was very pleased to hear you raise the issue of public safety,” Councilmember Ed Somers said. “We live in a different era than we did years ago. We deal with a number of issues where people are frustrated about many things, and their most accessible level of government…is their local government. I do worry often about our staff that are there all the time.”

An exact timeline for the study hasn’t been established yet, but when it’s completed, a final report and the consultant’s recommended solution will be presented to the town council.

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