Update: Menlo Park council OKs major funding increase for City Hall renovations


(Expanded version of story posted earlier.)

By Kate Bradshaw | Almanac Staff Writer

A controversial increase in budget allocations for renovations to City Hall was approved by the Menlo Park City Council on Jan. 26 on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Ray Mueller opposed.

Project estimates are now at $1.99 million, according to the most recent staff report, due to unanticipated costs for the heating, cooling and electricity systems. The project has come before the council several times since it was first proposed in 2014, each time with staff requesting a larger budget. In July 2014, the cost was estimated at $1.2 million.

The renovations include redesigning the first and second floors of the administration building to improve work stations, increase the number of workstations, and create a more open office space to accommodate new employees. All employees get stand-up/sit-down workspaces.

Some conference rooms will be split to create smaller "duck-out" rooms intended for phone calls or small meetings.

A total of $565,000 of the added cost will be appropriated from the city's 2014-15 general fund surplus.

Assistant City Manager Chip Taylor said City Hall facilities were last renovated in 1998 and are outdated, crowded, inefficient, and lack sufficient meeting space. The carpet is 18 years old, he said.

The city did a pilot study of the new office layout in the summer, Mr. Taylor said, and will keep the stand up/sit down desks purchased then, but add an extension to the desks to accommodate larger planning documents.

Several council members were not thrilled at the request for more funding for the project. Councilwoman Catherine Carlton said her patience is "wearing a little thin," while Councilwoman Kristen Keith said, "I feel like we've discussed this too much."

Councilman Peter Ohtaki said he didn't like it, "but that is the reality of the construction market."

Councilman Mueller, who opposed the increase in budget appropriations, said he's "not sure the case has been made for all of these amenities that are being provided."

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