March 12, 2009 in Washington Voices

Council looks at limits on city hall plans

Architectural plans may be limited to $50,000
By The Spokesman-Review
 

If architectural work continues on a new Spokane Valley City Hall, it may be limited to $50,000 until the city owns or controls a site for the building.

Council members Gary Schimmels and Rose Dempsey said Tuesday they weren’t willing to spend any more money at present, but the rest of the council expressed interest in work that would be useful at any location.

Public Works Director Neil Kersten told the council he believed, based on conversations with the architects, that up to $50,000 worth of work could safely be completed without locking down a site. He said he wouldn’t spend the full $50,000 if the limited work can be done for less.

The proposed expenditure is far less than the $377,000 the council was asked to authorize on Feb. 10, prompting a warning from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Chairman Philip Rudy cautioned against spending so much money “in these unique financial times” to design a building on someone else’s land.

The $377,000 would have paid for schematic designs that would have provided details about the new building’s appearance and cost.

The council had already ponied up $75,000 last summer for site-planning work that resulted in a recommendation by the Bernardo-Wills and GGLO architectural firms to build a 55,000- to 60,000-square-foot, three-story building on a three-acre parcel at the University City Shopping Center.

Councilman Gary Schimmels said Tuesday that he thinks the work already completed is sufficient until the city acquires the land.

Councilwoman Rose Dempsey said spending $50,000 more seemed “precipitous.”

“I know that we have money set aside for this,” Dempsey said, “but I feel like we’re almost saying, ‘Ooh, we’ve got the money, we’ve got to spend it.’ ”

But Councilman Steve Taylor thought it would be “prudent for us to move forward as quickly as possible.” The city staff would pace the work appropriately, he suggested.

Councilman Bill Gothmann said he “could go along” with a motion limiting the additional work to $50,000, but he thought the city should be ready to proceed with construction when the recession ends. He predicted a lot of pent-up demand for construction that could leave the city “behind the eight ball” if its project isn’t ready to go.

Councilman Dick Denenny wanted information to garner public support for the project. He thought the work done so far was inadequate for that purpose.

“You can’t communicate with the public in any way, shape or form about what this would look like, what the layout would be like and why you would want to do it,” Denenny said.

He agreed, though, that a $50,000 limit is appropriate until the city acquires a site.

The council took no formal action Tuesday, but directed Kersten to prepare a contract breaking out the $50,000 portion of schematic design work.

Kersten said the full $377,000 worth of schematic work would represent about 20 percent of all the architectural and engineering services needed to prepare final plans for a contractor.

Previously, Kersten has said architectural fees typically are 8 to 10 percent of the cost of a building.

A preliminary architectural report on the new city hall says the tentative construction budget for the project, in 2010 dollars, is $14.1 million, not counting various fees, sales tax, or a 5 percent contingency for last-minute changes.

John Craig may be contacted at johnc@spokesman.com.

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