City staff Wednesday proposed design additions for a revamped Council chambers that could bump the estimated $1 million project cost by more than 20 percent.
The three members of the five-member Council present at Wednesday’s meeting voted to finish the architectural design with the roughly $236,000 in proposed additions, but noted they would have to come back later to determine how to pay for the extra construction costs – should they approve the proposed new elements.
The redesign of the Council chambers at 17555 Peak Ave. is being conducted by Weston Miles Architects, a Morgan Hill firm.
The Council approved the chamber upgrade project in November 2012, in order to upgrade audiovisual equipment, offer more seating and make the City’s government headquarters and business more accessible to the public. The projected total cost - excluding the additions proposed Wednesday - is about $975,000, including the contract with Weston Miles, according to a City staff report.
Weston Miles was awarded the $157,650 contract to design the upgrades in January. The design was about 70 percent complete as of Wednesday.
On Wednesday, City staff proposed adding an estimated $236,000 worth of features to the project that were not considered in the initial conceptual design. These include installing more restrooms ($50,000), improving the main entrance lobby ($60,500), installing security cameras ($10,000), purchasing new seats to replace the existing ones ($50,500), and remodeling the existing chambers room into a “fully functional conference room to accommodate a large group” ($65,000).
City staff said the additions would make the new chambers even more accessible to the public and allow a wider variety of uses such as conferences. Morgan Hill police recommended installing the security cameras.
The original design concept discussed by Council and the architect earlier this year would move the chambers into the middle of the old City Hall building, changing the layout of the structure by removing some existing walls and adding new ones. The new chambers would be large enough to accommodate an audience up to 280 - a substantially higher spectator capacity than the current 60 to 80 seats.
The Council also wants to replace its existing audiovisual equipment to improve the public’s ability to see and hear meetings on television and the City’s website. That part of the projected is estimated at about $250,000, also included in the overall estimate.
One Councilman questioned the need to spend that much money on a new chambers at a time when the City needs as much as it can get to maintain and repair its crumbling streets infrastructure.
“I’m concerned staff is proposing to spend scarce funds that could be used for streets,” Vice Mayor Gordon Siebert wrote in comments he submitted prior to the meeting to Mayor Steve Tate, who read the statement for Siebert at Wednesday’s meeting. Siebert was absent at the meeting.
Morgan Hill resident Doug Muirhead added in written comments submitted to the Council before the meeting, “Think of what could be done to the benefit of our residents if some of this money was used for community education and community surveys or more usable public infrastructure.”
City staff has proposed using a variety of funds to pay for the chambers revamping project, most of which are restricted for specific uses such as facilities construction.
Councilmembers present at the meeting voted to continue the design with the new feature options, but stopped short of supporting the additions.
Councilman Larry Carr said the Council and staff can “figure out the strategy of funding it” when they are ready to solicit bids for a construction contract. Councilman Rich Constantine added that the current price tag is just an estimate, and the actual cost of construction is likely to be lower than is now anticipated.