SOLON– After a bout with sticker shock, it’s back to the drawing board for Solon’s proposed new city hall.
Early conceptual cost estimates for the renovation of 100 W. Main St. came in at nearly three times the amount the city expected to spend, according to city administrator Cassandra Lippincott.
That was a month ago, and now the city committee which has been working on the project has asked the engineering firm it hired to try to trim back the projected price tag.
The committee, consisting of Lippincott, public works director Scott Kleppe, Mayor Cami Rasmussen, and council members Mark Krall and Steve Stange, is expected to meet Wednesday, Feb. 20, to continue the discussion and explore options.
The city took possession of the vacated commercial building referred to informally as the “candy store” in July 2012, intending to convert the two-story location into city offices and council chambers. The structure was constructed in 1972 and features pre-stressed concrete ceilings and 7,200 square feet of space, with apartments on the second level.
The city council has approved borrowing up to $900,000 in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) bonds to finance the purchase and renovation of the Main Street building, and with a $214,000 purchase price and the cost of asbestos removal, there is roughly $655,000 available for renovations, Lippincott reported.
The committee has been working since September to reach consensus on a basic framework of improvements for the building and the next steps needed to move forward.
That included working with Shive-Hattery’s Brian Gotwals to develop a basic concept plan and early price estimates, which were provided while council members were knee-deep in preparing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Initial renderings show the main floor fully developed with offices and council chambers, while the second floor featured two larger multipurpose rooms. An elevator would also be included.
The only extravagant portion of the early drawings, Lippincott said, was an open second story above the council chambers.
Lippincott said she understood the early cost estimates were conservative and included contingencies and inflated engineering fees, but the high price was enough to prompt a meeting with the mayor and the engineering firm to request a scaled back projection.
The city was prepared to do without an elevator, Lippincott said, perhaps leaving a shaft and installing the elevator later. “But that was a drop in the bucket from where they (Shive-Hattery) were at,” she noted.
Other options do exist, including the demolition of the current structure and the construction of a new building. “It’s on the table,” she said.
The city is still hoping to begin the project, whatever it ends up being, yet this construction season.
“I had anticipated being a little farther along in the process,” commented Mayor Rasmussen. She indicated committee members had been taken aback by the difference in original estimates and the numbers put forward by Shive-Hattery. “Quite frankly, it has us scratching our heads on where we’re going to go with it.”