Wednesday: How can Atherton cut cost of civic center?

8 a.m. meeting also discusses how to fill funding gaps

Should Atherton save money by building only a new police headquarters while deferring the building of its other offices and a council chamber?

Or should the town just go ahead with plans for the joint police and administration/building and planning offices, but use less expensive finishes such as asphalt shingles instead of clay tiles on the roof? Or downgrade the finishes, and also wait on building the planned new council chamber and emergency operations center?

Those are among the options the Atherton City Council will consider in a study session at an unusual time – 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5 – but the usual place, the town's council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

The council has already approved a series of design changes in its new library that the project's architect and cost consultants think could shave more than $3 million from expenses while making minimal changes to the building's appearance.

The council has been pondering how to come up with a less expensive project since early June, when the lowest of the only two construction bids came in at $56.4 million, 40 percent higher than the town consultant's $40.5 million estimate.

The cuts approved by the council bring the estimated cost of the new library, with design costs and contingencies, to approximately $23.3 million.

The library, part of the San Mateo County Library system, has its own funding source that comes from property taxes that are set aside for library use only.

But funding for the police and other town offices is a bit more complicated. An advisory vote in 2012 said the design and construction of a new town center should be paid for primarily with donations. But Atherton Now, formed in 2015 to raise the money for the civic center, raised less than $7 million of its $25 million goal.

Voters in June 2017 approved spending money already in the town's coffers for the project; that seemed to solve the problem, until the bids came in.

Faced with the reality of having to slash features to bring the cost in line with available funds, the City Council has begun talking about going into debt or spending reserves to pay for the long-planned project.

Before considering the design changes, the council will hear a presentation from consultants Urban Futures, Inc. on options to borrow money. In addition to borrowing to help pay construction costs, the town may have cash-flow problems: It must juggle property tax revenues received only twice a year with the need to pay contractors monthly.

Most of the borrowing options do not require voter approval.

See the meeting agenda on the town's website. Click on an item to see the staff report.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


5 people like this
Posted by Invisible Hand
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 4, 2018 at 10:16 am

The scope, scale and overall form of the civic center is fine.

Solicit more bids. Really. You only received 2 bids. Most civic project will rebid if they don't receive at least 4 bids from qualified vendors. If that won't work, then break out the library from the civic center and bid them separately. All of his is being made much harder than it needs to be.

5 people like this
Posted by TomS
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 4, 2018 at 11:16 am

Please no asphalt shingles on a Spanish style building!

4 people like this
Posted by Question posed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm

The question posed was "How can Atherton cut cost of civic center?". Lots of advocates are saying "It can't be cut." When the voters decide not to allow the debt, new possibilities for cost cutting will emerge. Until such point, I believe the supporters will continue to be in denial.

4 people like this
Posted by Architect
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 4, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Asphalt singles: YES!
Downgraded finishes: YES!
Lower LEED level: YES!

Functional is beautiful. Don’t waste taxpayer money on fluff. Go for substance. We are not trying to win architecture awards. We want a functional and comfortable workplace for our Town employees.

6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2018 at 7:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Unfortunately the Town Council is facing a local construction market that is overstressed. It is highly likely that no one will bid on this project and if anyone does the bid(s) will be in excess of the bids received for the former design specifications.

This dilemma is of the Town's own making because it took years to acknowledge that the Town needed new buildings and then more years to get to the current pre-bid point.

5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2018 at 8:09 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

It's called supply and demand. There are tons of demand for public works projects and there are only so many contractors available or WILLING to do these projects. You only got two responses because that's how many GC's that are interested in bidding your project. Guess what? You put it back out to bid, it won't get any better. This is the current state of the construction market. You want to spend less money? Reduce the scope of your project. I know there are those that hate to hear that, but that is the fact of the current construction market. Either that, or wait for the next recession (it's coming) and put it out to bid when contractors are hungry.

2 people like this
Posted by Local news
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Yes, Winter is coming. Build what you can afford, and postpone the rest until winter is here.

"If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention"

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

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 4,629 views

If you do nothing else, do These Three Things
By Sherry Listgarten | 18 comments | 1,728 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,231 views

Lentil Brownies
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 287 views

Finding Balance
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 187 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.