BY TOM BUSSELBERG
BOUNTIFUL – Though the city council unanimously approved a needs analysis study on Bountiful City Hall Tuesday night, reaching that agreement wasn't an easy process.
Prior to the meeting, there was at least one council member who said he wasn’t convinced such a study is needed.
“I think it’s too much money to hire an architect for the city hall study,” said Councilman John Marc Knight.
The council was asked to consider approval of a “professional services contract” for a city hall use and needs assessment study, “not to exceed $32,000.”
Salt Lake City architectural firm GSBS was recommended to do the study. Councilman Richard Higginson, who participated in meetings where the architect was chosen. said he expects the study to be completed by February or early March.
The council voted 4-1 in early October to continue with a study to determine what upgrades would be needed to continue using the existing city hall.
That followed a 3-2 council vote Sept. 10 to put plans for a new city hall on hold. It was to be built on Main Street on the spot previously occupied by the Bountiful/Davis Art Center.
The decision came following news that the projected cost could reach $10 million, up from earlier estimates of $4.6 million.
“I want the city engineer (Paul Rowland) to do an evaluation of the different systems in city hall,” Knight said. That could include determining if there’s a problem with the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC) or roof, for example.
“If we need to fix it, then we can let a bid. I don’t want to hire an architect to potentially say we need to fix the HVAC in five years,” Knight said, again saying he’d rather city personnel make those decisions.
“The council instructed us to go forward with a building needs and use study,” Rowland said.
That entailed determining what modifications or needs there might be to keep using the building for five, 15 or 30 years.
“That’s so we can see what it would take to bring us up to the acceptable standard,” he said.
Comparisons could also be made on whether a new building could be constructed now or potentially not for many years, Rowland added.
“I think this is a step that will satisfy that part of the motion that was made in the original (September) meeting, that we do a real assessment of what the city hall needs,” Higginson said.
With that in hand, the council “isn’t forced in any way to move on any issue,” he said.
“At least we will have the information in front of us as to what professionals think,” Higginson said.
“Ultimately, one of the reasons you do a study is to make sure you’re making the right decision,” said Councilwoman Beth Holbrook.
“There was contention where some people didn’t think we made a good decision overall,” she said hearkening back to that September meeting.
“This is a good way for us to get a non-emotional, totally thorough analysis, and make sure the right things are being done,” Holbrook emphasized.
Emotion is removed from what became a very emotional issue, she added.
GSBS was selected from an initial list of six firms that responded.
In related action, the council also approved filling in the site where the BDAC was located, though work will be done to lower the original cost estimate. Wind River Excavation submitted the low bid to fill the site for $34,225. City-furnished materials valued at $14,135 would bring the estimated total to $48,360.
Neither Higginson or Knight thought the fill price was ideal.
“I would certainly prefer to have contractors in the area invited to bring their fill, so the city can incur lower costs and have the site landscaped again,” Higginson said.
Cost could’ve been lower had more than four contractors participated, he said.
Knight had stronger words of opposition to the proposed bid approval.
“I think we’ve got contractors who will be out working this spring that would like to fill that for nothing. They’re hauling their dirt beside there (on Main Street) anyway,” he said.
“For $45,000 we could get the hole filled right now. The dirt’s frozen, and the earth is wet. It may not be as compactible as we would like it to be. It’s going to look ugly for four or five months,” Knight said.
“I’d rather save that money and try to encourage our local contractors to dump their clean fill this spring,” he said.
The BDAC building was torn down in anticipation of a new city hall there and remodeling of the existing city hall. Plans were to move the BDAC onto half the building and a new museum into the other portion.
City Councilman Tom Tolman, who is completing three terms on the council and chose not to run again, has long championed a museum.
He said he looks forward to being out of the public eye, and dealing again with a new museum possibility, maybe come spring.