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Small hiccup for City Council renovation project

After the Woodbury City Council rebuffed plans to remodel council chambers, city officials are looking for a cheaper solution.

The city allocated $325,000 in its budget last year for the chamber's remodeling project, but when city staffers unveiled an updated plan at the end of August, the project's cost had swelled to almost $675,000. Most council members expressed doubt that the cost was worth it and met Wednesday to discuss what could be eliminated from the project in order to lower costs.

Parks Director Bob Klatt said the costs went up after staff realized there was more they wanted to put in to make it last the next 30 years.

"Quite honestly, not a lot of thought was put into that budget," Klatt said. "There was no preliminary design."

Aside from a few technology upgrades, he said, the chambers hasn't been renovated since 1990.

The redesign plans includes replacing the dias where council sits, carpets, ceilings, heating ventilation and air conditioning systems and security. Staffers also sought to create more overflow seating and increase the overall size of the chambers by knocking down one of the walls.

"This is not that big of a space," said Council Member Amy Scoggins at the council's Aug. 24 meeting. "We could build a nice house somewhere for that kind of money and hold our council meetings there."

City staffers sometimes use the chambers for meetings, and the space is also used to hold other public meetings. City officials said they want assurances chambers would be used more often after the space is renovated.

At Wednesday's meeting, city staff and officials reviewed potential options, with most favoring an option that would cut more than $155,000 off the current project price tag by eliminating the chamber's expansion and forgoing optional security upgrades.

Cutting out security costs, however, didn't sit well with council member Julie Ohs, who said she disagrees with other council members on cutting optional security upgrades that would add about $60,000 to the project.

The optional costs would include bulletproof glass for doors and windows.

"I'm probably in the minority, but I'd hate for something to happen," she said. "This is a crazy, crazy world and for $60,000 — unbelievable."

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said the city could revisit the possibility of upgrading overall security at city hall.

"We're out at public at all times, and we're exposed to risk," council member Christopher Burns said.

City officials also reviewed plans that could bring the total amount of the project down to $453,105 by maintaining the acoustical ceilings and not changing the dias' design.

City officials said they still anticipate the project to begin this fall and be completed at the beginning of next year.

The City Council will likely vote on the project in the coming weeks.