By Hugh and Sheila Wiese
Jim and Shirley Palm
Don and Pat Williams
Wayne Fu and Hway-Ming Wang
More than a year ago, the Kenmore City Council began plans to design and build a new city hall on a plot located at the northeast intersection of 68th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 181st Street. This plot was purchased in access of $3 million, which was overpriced. Since then, the council hired Weinstein Architects and Olympic Associates to design and manage the project development.
After several public hearings, council study sessions and meetings concerning the city-hall development and costs, it has become apparent there are important considerations that Kenmore citizens should recognize and be concerned about. The current economic crisis at all government levels will impact construction and financing costs, including projects such as the Kenmore city hall.
The original building proposal was based on 16,000 square feet of space, which was considered adequate. City Council at the urging of city-hall personnel raised the building space to 22,000 square feet, which also increased the cost considerably even though the additional space was not essential. Unfortunately, this was approved by the council.
The plot provided sufficient space to accommodate 62 surface parking spaces, however, the council approved an underground parking facility at a cost of approximately $2 million, another unnecessary feature. The building is to be structured principally of concrete and steel, a more expensive choice of materials. An alternative using primarily wood materials would have been a much lower cost alternative. The exterior walls are to be constructed with floor-to-ceiling glazing at a considerably higher cost than conventional walls and windows. Such glazing panels are also less energy efficient. High-cost interior finish, yet unidentified, are to be installed. These are only several examples where high costs could be reduced, along with numerous smaller-cost saving items.
The overall cost of the project is expected to be about $19.3 million ($12.9 for construction and about $7 million furnishings, design and consultants, taxes, fees and permits and contingencies), however, in recent council meetings the costs were predicted to be potentially as high as $22 million. The council is considering covering these costs from funds the developer of Kenmore Village project is to pay the city of Kenmore when that project is developed. This amounts to about $8 million, the balance to be derived from city reserve funds. The Kenmore Village project is currently delayed and funds are not forthcoming. With the economy very uncertain, these funds will not likely be available for sometime, which could delay city-hall construction.
In an attempt to resolve this funding problem, the council is considering approving either a short-term or possibly a long-term bond. This is a considerable additional cost, which may be as high as $18 million over 30 years. The council is also considering approval of a councilmanic bond, which does not require voter approval. By approving any type of bond, financing of city hall could eventually total $30 million-$40 million.
We have recommended that the City Council consider the following actions:
• Hire an independent, unbiased firm to determine which features could be eliminated that would reduce costs.
• Reduce the size of the building to 16,000 square feet, yet retaining sufficient space to accommodate city employees and permit citizens to conduct business in an efficient facility.
• Remove plans for an underground parking facility.
• Postpone the construction of city hall until funds become available without creating debt. There is no emergency in this project, a delay may be in the best interest of our citizens.
• Reject any proposal that requires funding by bond. In the event a bond is considered, submit it to a vote of the people.
Kenmore citizens should be aware that unless the council is influenced to modify the plans and funding of city hall, we will all be committed to a high-priced project, which should be produced at a modest cost. It should also be noted that a comparative cost of similar city-hall projects in neighboring cities are substantially lower per square foot than Kenmore. Shoreline $350; Woodinville $328; Redmond $317; Kenmore $536. When excluding the underground parking ($50,000 per parking space), the office space is $881 per square foot, prior to financing. These cost estimates are based on the city’s latest budget of Oct. 23.
We urge Kenmore citizens to contact council members, attend meetings and insist the city-hall project cost be greatly reduced. We also suggest that citizens oppose the use of any councilmanic bonds to fund city hall. The current cost of this proposal is much too high, and unless citizens vigorously oppose this project now, we will all be obligated to pay more than necessary. If postponement is prudent to further reduce costs, such action should be approved by the council.
The authors are Kenmore residents.