Consultants: Delays add $2.8 million to cost of Atherton civic center

Conceptual plan for civic center forwarded to Atherton council

It took five tries, but the committee charged with advising Atherton's City Council about the plans for the town's new civic center on Sept. 21 finally approved a conceptual design to recommend to the council.

The Civic Center Advisory Committee was first scheduled to forward a conceptual design to the council on June 23. In July committee members were told by the consultants hired to manage the project that every month of delay in getting the project started would add about $90,000 to its cost.

The consultants now say the project is due to start at least 18 months behind the original schedule, adding an additional $2.8 million to the total due to escalating construction costs. When the master plan for the project was approved, a start date of July 2015 was projected.

The total cost for the project is now estimated at $42.9 million.

The conceptual plan is scheduled to go to the City Council for approval either at its Oct. 7 or Oct. 21 meeting.

The design shows a new two-story, 27,000-square-foot building for police, administration and council chambers. The building would be made up of two wings joined by a common lobby and located near Fair Oaks Lane.

A new one-story library of slightly less than 10,000 square-feet would be located near the site of the existing library. The existing historic council chambers building would be renovated and serve as an extension of the new library. There would also be a small police garage building. The existing small corporation yard building would be retained.

Members of the committee couldn't resist making one last tweak in the building placement at their September meeting. Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, a council liaison to the committee along with Mayor Rick DeGolia, suggested moving the new council chambers from where it is shown on the plans and placing it at the end of the police building, away from Fair Oaks Lane.

Committee members seemed happy with the last tweak, as did project architect Pauline Souza of WRNS Studio. "I like that a lot," she said. "That solves a lot of tough problems we were wrestling with."

What had kept the committee from making a recommendation at its last meeting was worry about the costs of the building. While members chose a favored design when they met on Aug. 31, they said they couldn't recommend it until they had an idea of how much it would cost.

Mack5, the consultant hired by the city to manage the civic center project, said that the conceptual design favored by the committee is more expensive than what had been envisioned in the original civic center master plan. The estimate shows the amount of money that would need to be raised to build the favored plan is close $27.2 million, about $2.2 million over the amount the advisory committee had said it would be comfortable with as a goal for fundraising.

The report says that the total cost of the project is now $42.9 million and can be reduced to $38.4 million by taking out some added features. The library cost, which comes from tax money that has been specifically set aside for the library, would be $13.5 million and town building fees that have been allocated for new building offices would cover $2.2 million of the cost.

Other increased costs of the project include $1.3 million for increasing the size of the administration and police buildings and $800,000 for increasing the contingency fund from 10 percent to 12 percent and $2 million for a photovoltaic system.

The complete report can be seen on the city's website.

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4 people like this
Posted by Twila
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Good Lord what an expensive boondoggle. Couldn't we keep this whole thing simple and not waste money on endless consults and changes? Whew!

4 people like this
Posted by Onory
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 4:43 pm

There goes the neighborhood. So much for the quaint small town feel of the area. Too much money wasted on endless changes, I say.

Like this comment
Posted by Valerie B
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:35 pm

The $2m for a photovoltaic system is a total waste unless it is disconnectable from the grid. A grid-connected system will never pay for itself. A system that can operate disconnected could provide critical power for police services during an extended grid power outage.

2 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 24, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Solar systems only work when the sun shines. Therefore, they must always have a real grid backup to cover power needs at night and on foggy or cloudy days. It's not worth the considerable added expense of adding solar just to be able to boast about their "green" system. It's a farce!

Like this comment
Posted by Over taxed
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 26, 2015 at 7:44 pm

I'm confused, Is this being paid for by the city and hence us the tax paying citizens or by donations?

5 people like this
Posted by Disclosure
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 27, 2015 at 8:07 am

Originally was promised to be paid for by private donations. They have not materialized, and the council has not been transparent about this. Taxpayers will foot the bill through a bond measure that will be proposed.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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