City to renovate council chambers

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By David Giuliani

The City Council decided last week to go ahead with renovating its chambers, but the cost is much higher than originally estimated.

The council voted 3-1 to enter a $165,000 contract with Franken Construction to expand the chambers and make several improvements. Franken, which gets nearly every local government project, beat two other bidders.

The contract’s cost is considerably higher than the $20,000 to $30,000 estimated earlier this year.

Councilman Andrew Feldman, who voted against the project, called $165,000 a “little steep.” He said he questioned spending so much money when the long-term plan is for the council to build a new City Hall on Douglas Avenue as part of a downtown revitalization project. After that happens, the city could then move Municipal Court to the existing council chambers, he said.

The chamber renovation will include 80 seats, a sound and projection system, handicapped ramps and expanded space, made available by knocking down the walls of the adjacent city attorney’s office. During some meetings, the existing chambers aren’t big enough for the audience, so many have to wait outside in the foyer.

“It’s a pretty big project. It will look nice,” said Joe Lucero, the city’s interim public works director.

Officials said they have money in the budget to pay for the project.