WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee City Council agreed in principle Thursday night to start fielding bid offers to remodel part of the former Federal Building into a new city hall.
The council project had already gone to bid over the summer, but according to Mayor Frank Kuntz, the bids that came in weren’t very favorable.
How unfavorable? About $3 million over what was projected.
“At the same time, we didn’t know what our budget would look like and were projecting about a $1.5 million loss,” Kuntz said at Thursday’s council meeting.
The project was put on hold over the fall, but Kuntz said a few things have changed with the budget over the past six months. What was projected as a $1.5 million general fund loss for 2020 — because of the COVID-19 pandemic — is expected to be a $2 million growth.
“Sales tax has rebounded and then, because we couldn’t incarcerate people at the jail, it (cost) over a million dollars less than what we expected,” city finance director Brad Posenjak said.
Kuntz asked the council for their OK. Most did. Councilman Keith Huffaker did not, expressing his displeasure.
“I’m discouraged that it is the same cost and during a pandemic; I don’t think we should push forward,” Huffaker said. “We may be camping out — in the current city hall — but we’re doing a whole lot better than other businesses in town. I think this is totally the wrong message to go build a nice city hall while (everyone else) scrapes to get by. I am totally opposed to this.”
While Kuntz said he understood Huffaker’s opinion, he said that he felt construction costs would only go up, as opposed to down, in the future.
“I personally don’t believe construction will come down to a point where in 2023 it will come down 10% and that is the time to do it,” Kuntz said. “We’ve done a good job of budgeting. Now I didn’t think in June, July and August that I would be back in January ready to go back out, but lots of things have happened and we’re in a position where we can do it.
“I’m hopeful we get local contractors but don’t poo-poo if they are coming from Spokane and staying in a hotel for two weeks and eating at Saddle Rock (Pub & Brewery).”