Bob Linnell, who served as mayor from 1990-93 and was previously on the city council, and Tom Hardy, who was city manager for 31 years, are not part of the Better Bountiful group that organized a petition drive late last year calling for the issue to be put on the ballot during this November’s municipal election. But they share many of that group’s opinions.
“I don’t think abandoning the current city hall is a good idea,” Hardy said. “The existing hall was built in 1978, which makes it newer than most every church in Bountiful and newer than every school we send our kids to. It’s interesting that the school district has chosen to remodel and upgrade, in place, its existing buildings, rather than rebuild. Those costs pale in comparison with what it would cost to replace them with new schools.”
“I feel like the current city hall can be upgraded much more economically than moving it and building a whole new structure,” Linnell added. “I’m concerned about escalating costs that might occur building a new one, like the last proposal in 2013 when the original estimates kept changing. We eventually voted that one down. I’m not sure anything has changed since then.”
Hardy said the city’s estimates for rebuilding the current facility aren’t accurate.
“I showed the city’s estimates to remodel to architects, engineers and contractors that live in the community, and they said, ‘You know what, what needs to be done can be done for less than half of what the city is saying,’” Hardy stated. “That study was done in 2014. Since that time, they put a new roof on the public safety building, and they put a new roof on the street department building last year. They didn’t have to do a great big study to do it. They simply got a contractor and did it.”
More than the costs involved, both Linnell and Hardy are concerned about the way the decision to hire a contractor and proceed with the project was made.
“It’s interesting to me that the council and the mayor have decided to willfully ignore the citizenry on this issue,” Hardy said. “In the almost 40 years that I’ve been in Bountiful, the city has had a history of supporting capital bond projects. Every issue that the school district has put on the ballot has passed in Bountiful. In Bountiful specifically, with the golf course and the original recreation center, it was put on the ballot and the people approved it. When the new rec. center was being proposed, we said, ‘With a decision of this magnitude, we really ought to have the voters decide it.’ So we put it on, and it passed--narrowly--but it passed.”
He said a similar voter decision was faced with building the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville.
“We went to the people and made our case,” he said. “The city has a huge history of supporting their government if they feel like they’re being heard and if they feel like it’s reasonable. In this case, people don’t feel like they’re being heard and they don’t think that what’s being proposed is reasonable.”
Both feel the economic development impact for downtown Bountiful would be minimal with the project, since the proposed location on the site of Stoker School wouldn’t be visible directly from Main Street. Linnell said most residents seldom or never go in to the current city hall, adding “we all pay our utility bills by mail or have them automatically withdrawn from our banks.”
Hardy says the current council chamber, which seats about 150, “is larger than almost any council chamber in any city hall along the Wasatch Front.” He said when residents were concerned over the pipeline issue years ago, “we went over to Bountiful High and used their auditorium to accommodate the crowd. If you anticipate a large turnout for a public hearing, there are places that can accommodate that.”
But their biggest concern is breaking what Hardy called “the bond of trust, which you never want to see broken. When you have 4,000 citizens signing a petition asking the council for the right to vote on an issue, that’s a democratic process. The city’s response was to hide behind a technicality.”
“As far as I’m concerned, the proper thing to do right now is put it to a vote of the people,” Linnell said.