MIDVALE — It still looks the same, the former Salt Lake County Library building that has served as Midvale's City Hall since the late 1970s.
But that's only on the outside.
Inside, anyone who has business with the city these days might feel like they're inside, well, a modern, customer-friendly City Hall.
And that was the whole idea behind the city's recent $647,000 renovation of its City Hall building, 655 W. Center Street (7720 South).
Gone are the internal mazes that sent citizens scurrying through dark corridors and searching mysterious cubicles like rats sniffing cheese.
Midvale isn't your 8,000-population, once-bustling south valley slice of history anymore. It's a recently expanded, central valley 'burb of 27,000 ready to embark on a new era.
"The whole back of the building was designed as a warehouse for book processing when the city purchased it," not for City Council meetings and court hearings, Mayor JoAnn Seghini said of the need for a change.
"Now we have a much bigger customer base, more people to serve and therefore more services."
City officials could have elected to raze the old building and construct a new City Hall at an estimated cost of $2.2 million or more. But by choosing to renovate — and spending two months working in temporary trailers while the remodel was completed — they saved more than $1.5 million.
The renovation was completed without borrowing money.
About half the financing came from sales-tax revenues generated by Costco Wholesale before it relocated to Murray last month. Midvale officials knew the move was coming several years ago, so they stopped counting on Costco revenues for ongoing programs.
Everything Costco generated was put into a special account for capital improvement projects. And because the retailer ended up staying longer than anticipated, the savings for City Hall accumulated to more than $300,000.
When the Midvale Museum moved out on its own to a new location on Main Street, that created room in City Hall for an expanded and remodeled justice court. That was a huge need, Seghini said, because the old courtroom simply did not meet modern standards.
"One of the big issues with the court was providing proper security and segregation for prisoners, witnesses and the general public," said City Manager Lee King. "It just didn't exist in the old building."
Holding cells have been added at the back of the court to retain prisoners.
The front lobby and waiting area have been expanded and transformed to include a longer counter, making it easier for customers to connect with the proper city staffer and receive the help they need.
"We now have a private office for all the department heads, and then all those people who provide services to the department heads now have cubicles that are quite large and allow them to maintain records," Seghini said.
New bathrooms were added so employees no longer use the same facilities as the customers they wait on.
"The most significant thing is the ease of operation here and the customer service aspect. Customer service is going to be tenfold better than it was," said Kane Loader, the city's public works director who oversaw the renovation.
"We had a small lobby in the original set-up and people would just gather. It didn't matter who they were here to see, they were stopped at the front counter. Now we have a large counter so they can move down — a lot of space where people can be waited on."
A new boiler was installed, the heating and air-conditioning systems were revamped and all of the building's electrical wiring was replaced.
Next up for Midvale is a renovation and remodel of the old City Hall building next door. Work will begin soon to convert the building into a performing arts center.