When Santa made his annual visit here, he gave Mayor Don Poulsen a present.

It wasn't wrapped. There were no fancy bows. In fact, Poulsen didn't even see a box with his name on it. Santa, he thought, must have forgotten him.But as the jolly old elf visited with Midvale's youngsters inside the old City Hall, the first-year mayor soon realized that what Santa was giving him had been there all along.

Santa's gift was simply to remind Poulsen that, with a little attention, the old City Hall building could be turned into a multiuse facility that could serve as a catalyst in the city's efforts to revitalize its downtown area.

Now Poulsen hopes to persuade the City Council to remodel the building's interior and give the old City Hall back to Midvale's residents - perhaps as next year's Christmas present.

"I think it should be a cultural center and a center for the performing arts," Poulsen said. "Someone has to pick up the ball in the areas where it hasn't been picked up. We need to get some grants going and contributions, possibly, on our own and start renovating the building.

"If I don't see some improvement by next year's Christmas activity, I'll be totally disappointed."

Poulsen's gift still needs to be assembled, but the city already has most of the parts.

The building, a fixture on east Center Street for 55 years, was re-acquired by the city from a nonprofit organization in 1991. The city has landscaped the grounds and done some minor work on the exterior. And while Midvale's economy may not be flourishing, the city could sell bonds, borrow money or seek grants to pay for the interior renovation.

So what's keeping city leaders from charging ahead with the project? Like many gifts found under the tree, a renovated City Hall would have to be shared. The city must decide which of its residents would use it and when.

In April 1992, a citizens committee recommended the building be used as a multipurpose facility. But a debate between Midvale's arts community and others interested in using the building hasn't been resolved.

"There's been a little controversy associated with who's going to be able to use the building," said City Administrator Mike Siler, who served as chairman of the citizens committee. "Are we going to use it as a multipurpose facility or just as an arts center?"

Glenn Sacos, chairman of the Midvale Arts Council, said his group doesn't know whether it could co-exist with other groups in the old City Hall because the use of space there has not been spelled out.

"I just don't know how it would be divided, that's the thing we have to look at. What they have to do is come to a consensus," Sacos said of city leaders. "From the Arts Council's viewpoint, we just feel like there needs to be a place where the arts can be presented and enjoyed by the people in the community.

"We hope there can be an arrangement . . . "

Poulsen said he will urge the council to follow the 21/2-year-old recommendation of the citizens committee, which favored the multiple-use concept but placed a priority on the performing arts. It said civic groups could use the building and private groups could rent it but only if the needs of the arts are considered first.

The cost of renovation is up for discussion as well, although city programs coordinator Wayne Pyle said that can't be addressed until the use issue is settled.

"There's a $700,000 price tag to bring this back to what I call the Taj Mahal, which a lot of people would fight and I wouldn't blame them," said Keith Alexander, a city councilman and local coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "I don't think we have to spend that much, but the building has to have something going on in it."

There is little debate about that. At the mayor's suggestion, the matter was brought up at the Dec. 13 City Council meeting and was well-received. It likely will be discussed again in the near future, along with other projects aimed at restoring downtown Midvale.

"It's a real good idea for our community," Siler said. "It's going to be a focal point for people to come to Midvale, particularly to our old historic district."

The old City Hall is listed on the National Historic Register and is an integral part of the city's past. The challenge for city leaders is to figure out how to make the building an important part of Midvale's future.