In a joint announcement made late Monday afternoon, councilmembers said they plan to terminate the contracts for design and construction of the proposed municipal center. Mayor Randy Lewis and the five councilmembers maintain that the project would help bolster downtown and provide for economic development, but “prefer to promote community harmony over the new building,” the statement read.
“The council and the city staff know the community is what’s most important,” city manager Gary Hill said. “Who we are as a community in Bountiful is not worth the contention that has arisen.”
Those sentiments were echoed in the statement, where councilmembers said that, “Bountiful…doesn’t need to follow the national trend of blame and anger. We challenge the notion that angry public discourse, digging in one’s heels, and winning at all costs is ‘just the way it is now.’ Bountiful deserves better than this. As your city leaders, we have a duty to nurture respectful conversation. In that regard, we can all do better.”
Councilmembers voted unanimously last fall to relocate city hall and develop a plaza on city-owned property between Main and 100 East, and between 100 and 200 South. The intention was three-fold, as quoted in the release:
• Replace aging buildings in a manner and location that boosts the City’s economy.
• Spend one-time funds to encourage development that will provide ongoing fundingfor other necessary infrastructure and needs.
•Create a dynamic community core that highlight’s Bountiful’s historic heart.
The project has been a source of contention in the community since it was announced last spring. City leaders had hoped to build a new city complex on property that Bountiful owns on the site of Stoker School. A group of residents opposing the project started a petition for referendum late last year to stop or delay the project and to get the issue on a municipal election ballot to gage public opinion.
“I am personally very disappointed, and I believe the council is very disappointed in not seeing this project through to the vision we’ve had for it,” Lewis said. “Bountiful is a very unique city, a beautiful city, and it’s important that we set the right example. We didn’t feel coerced or pressured to make the decision not to go forward with city hall. It has just gotten too caustic for a place like Bountiful. No building is worth a divided community.”
Though a new city hall won’t be constructed on the site, leaders still want to build a downtown plaza, and pledge to work collaboratively with residents in developing that project. Because all current contracts will be cancelled if that action was taken as expected on Tuesday, any new developments of the plaza would require new contracts to be approved by the council.
“Our vision for downtown is not lost,” Lewis said. “We have such a great vision for the future of Bountiful and I believe it will still come. We’re making this decision from a perch of strength, not weakness. We’re excited about the future.”
“With last year’s passage of Proposition 1, which provides additional funding for road maintenance, we will undertake an independent study on how to best use that funding to improve our streets and sidewalks,” the statement said. “We pledge to listen and communicate more effectively and with more understanding. We invite all of Bountiful to do the same.”