Upgrades to council chambers considered

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By Don Pace

Officials have been talking about moving City Hall or fixing up the council chambers since 1991.

Public Works Director Carlos Ortiz told the council last week that the governing body indicates every year that it wants to wait another year to see what happens.

“Now that the council has gotten smaller we need to do something with this facility,” Ortiz said. He said the city has talked to an architect about some of the possibilities, but has not begun any design and development for the project.

Ortiz said there were a number to things that could be done to make the chambers roomier for the interim.

“I don’t think we want to come in and spend $200,000 on this if we’re going to move in a year or two. We are just asking for direction from the council to see how we can revamp the room, make it more appealing and more accommodating for the public,” Ortiz said.

Councilwoman Diane Moore asked, “So what your plan is, is to revitalize this room and not spend a lot of money until we know what our future plans are?”

Ortiz said he thought it would be prudent to do that.

“We could probably come in here and with $20,000 to $30,000, complete the job. We could possibly even extend the wall to the outside 30 to 40 feet and we can come up with different strategies and different costs and bring that back to council before we let it out to construction. Then you can decide what’s in the best interest of the city.”

Councilman Andrew Feldman suggested using some lodger’s tax money to leverage a loan to build a convention facility. He said the council could work with the Economic Development Corporation in coming up with a plan.

“We could add this to the list of things to consider,” Feldman said.

Feldman asked Ortiz how long it would take if the council decides to fix up the present council chambers.

Ortiz said the work could be accomplished within three to four weeks.

Councilman Morris Madrid said his main concern is accessibility.

“That’s probably our biggest weakness right now. Even when people are interested in watching the meetings, they can’t always hear what we say — it’s not up to speed. Community members who can’t attend meetings really can’t observe the meeting the way they should be able to,” Madrid said.

Mayor Tony Marquez told Ortiz he had direction from the governing body to look at different options.

Marquez told the Optic later that when he took over as mayor, he was advised that plans were under way to upgrade the City Council chambers.

“I was a member of the council, and I don’t recall that being brought to the council for a discussion from the governing body, nor was it brought before the public,” Marquez said. “So I asked the administration to put that on hold, so we can bring it to the council’s and the public’s attention so we can look at different alternatives and ideas to either relocate City Council chambers or upgrade this one so it’s accommodating to the audience that comes to the meetings.

“The bottom line is they were going to proceed with the building of a new chamber, but I put a stop to that saying we need to bring it up in a public meeting and let the governing body and the public have input,” Marquez said.