Crews are working this month on a nearly $162,000 renovation of the Kent City Council Chambers after staff had trouble over the past year finding a construction company to take on such a small project.
Regular council and committee meetings have been temporarily moved to Kent Commons from Council Chambers. Work began Sept. 4 and is expected to be completed in early October, said Derek Matheson, city chief administrative officer.
The council in March approved a $124,386 contract with Spanaway-based M.A.D. Construction to perform the work. The city spent another $26,550 on furniture and $11,602 on new carpet, according to an email from Alex Ackley, city facilities superintendent.
“City Council Chambers has been an underutilized space for decades, mostly due to the fixed benches that were ideal for council meetings – and court calendars back in the day – but problematic for other types of meetings,” Matheson said in an email. “The renovation project will replace the benches with modular tables and chairs we can configure in almost unlimited ways for different meetings throughout the month.”
Crews also will replace the worn carpet, the worn and missing sound panels behind the dais, update the dais and podium with modern finishes and relocate the large artwork at the ends of the room to the Kent Commons, Matheson said.
The council and then-Mayor Suzette Cooke initially approved the chamber renovations in 2017. The council signed off again on the plans in April 2018 with plans to have the work done last summer.
“The project is a fairly small one for the construction community – especially in a hot economy – and we struggled for months to find a firm willing to bid and then available to do the work,” Matheson said about the construction delay.
The city previously hired Seattle-based Broderick Architects for $7,500 to help design the changes in chambers.
The city spent $205,464 on consultants for a City Hall remodel study from 2015 to 2017 that included moving the chambers to the city’s Centennial Center across from City Hall as well as renovations and expansion of the police station. But the council dropped those plans because of anticipated costs and other budget issues.
Seattle-based ARC Architects estimated the remodel would cost between $33 million to $35 million after its study. City leaders never came up with a plan about how to fund the remodel.
The City Hall remodel proposal began after voters turned down a 2014 property tax measure to raise $34 million to rebuild the 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 if voters had approved a utility tax hike in April 2018. Detectives work in the Centennial Center because of a lack of space at the police station.