Kent city leaders plan to upgrade Council Chambers since their plan to remodel City Hall remains years away because of a lack of funds.
City staff and council members discussed at a April 17 workshop plans to spend $100,000 to upgrade Chambers, where the full council meets at least twice a month and committees meet on a regular basis. The city spent $205,464 on a City Hall remodel study over the last few years that included moving the Chambers to the city’s Centennial Center.
“This space with the fixed benches hampers our ability to host regional meetings,” said Derek Matheson, city chief administrative officer, to the council on the reasons for the work. “We either don’t host them or we host them in Centennial North-South – a very small windowless space – or we do them off site at the (Kent) Commons or Senior Center.”
Matheson said city leaders have attended several regional meetings at the Renton City Council Chambers.
“We would like to host those,” he said.
Crews will replace the benches with portable chairs to give the room more flexibility. New carpet, lighting and a change of panels on the wall behind the council are part of the proposal.
“The goal is for a relatively small amount of money to create a more functional, visibly appealing space that speaks to Kent’s sophistication,” Matheson said.
Then-Mayor Suzette Cooke and the council approved the funds last year for the upgrade as part of the 2017-2018 budget adjustment, Matheson said.
The city hired Seattle-based Broderick Architects for $7,500 to help design the changes in Chambers. Work is expected to be done this summer.
Mayor Dana Ralph held her first State of the City address last week in Chambers.
City Hall remodel
Kent leaders spent $205,464 on consultants over the last few years for a potential remodel of City Hall, including moving the Council Chambers to the Centennial Center across the parking lot.
Councilman Dennis Higgins brought up that project at the workshop.
“The long-term plan we have talked about for overall changes to the City Hall campus and a new Chambers in the Centennial Center, I don’t think we have abandoned the plan but we don’t have a timeline or budget for it,” Higgins said. “The $100,000 seems like a reasonable expenditure.”
Higgins later added about the City Hall remodel, “Given other budget considerations, we may still be a few years out at least from implementing that plan.”
The City Hall remodel proposal began after voters turned down a 2014 property tax measure to raise $34 million to rebuild the Kent Police station at its current site, which was last remodeled in 1991 to handle 75 officers. The police department has about 160 officers and would have boosted its force to about 180 over the next few years if voters had approved a utility tax hike April 24. Detectives work in the Centennial Center because of a lack of space at the police station.
The council approved a $168,849 contract with Seattle-based ARC Architects in April 2016 for a second phase of a study to come up with a conceptual design and the estimated costs to remodel City Hall, the police station, the Centennial building and the City Hall annex.
ARC Architects estimated the remodel would cost between $33.5 million to $35 million after its study from July 2016 to November 2017. City leaders never came up with a plan about how to fund the remodel.
The council approved a contract in 2015 with ARC Architects of $36,615 for the first phase of the study to see if a remodeling plan to use space more efficiently could work. ARC Architects performed that study from August 2015 to December 2015 and concluded changes could be done.