Boutiful officials rethink museum expansion

May 10 2012 - 11:32pm

BOUNTIFUL -- Some city officials are having second thoughts about pouring money into an old building as part of a plan to create new space for a regional museum.

Just days away from starting a plan to expand the existing Davis Arts Center on Main Street to facilitate a new museum, some city leaders want to look at other options, even as the cost to renovate the structure is going up.

Those options include the possibility of demolishing the arts building to make way for a new City Hall, while putting renovation money into the existing City Hall structure for use as a museum and arts center.

Members of the city council met in a work session Tuesday to talk about the options and to consider the potential impact of each. They have asked Hogan Construction to delay the museum project for at least a week as they take more time to peruse the options before holding a special meeting Monday to potentially make a decision.

The options put on the table by acting City Manager Rusty Mahan included moving forward with the existing plan, which would include putting $450,000 toward fixing problems with the arts center structure, and using $1.65 million of RDA funds for the new museum wing.

They also include renovating the existing City Hall to be used as a new arts center, and moving forward with a new City Hall structure, a combined option that carries an estimated price tag of $7 million.

Some of the money for the last option would come from the RDA for the remodel and some money would come from the city's capital reserve.

City officials don't think they would have to bond to come up with the funds for the project.

One thing does seem clear thus far, however, and that is the existing plan to renovate the arts building, as part of the museum project will cost more than double what city officials anticipated.

In looking closely at the arts building, officials found they may be biting off far more than they are willing to chew with the arts center.

"It's going to take more money to properly renovate that building than was originally thought. It won't be $450,000, it will take $1.5 million," Mahan said.

The 50-year-old structure has electrical and mechanical issues, needs a new roof and has poor insulation and leaky windows.

As cost estimates to fix the structure have come up, officials began to consider what it would cost to renovate the 35-year-old City Hall. Mahan estimates renovation costs for the two old buildings, plus the museum wing, would come to approximately $4.5 million.

"You'd spend $4.5 million and still have two old buildings," Mahan said of the concept.

He estimates renovation of either the arts building or the City Hall would cost half of what a new structure would cost.

Councilman Richard Higginson said the city could find a unique opportunity in looking at the new City Hall option.

"It would be nice to have a City Hall on Main Street that people could drive past and say, 'Wow, that's a neat City Hall. I'm glad I live in Bountiful,' rather than an institutional-type building with a flat roof, like we have right now. If we don't take this opportunity we may miss out," Higginson said of the plan.

Councilman Tom Tolman, who has actively campaigned for the museum for years, bristled a bit at the thought that plans for the new regional museum could be put on hold.

"We've been bouncing around a lot of places, and now it seems so close it's been tough to deal with," Tolman said of a possible delay in the museum project. "We just weren't ready to have a monkey wrench thrown into the machinery."

Councilman Fred Moss wonders if residents would support the move for a new City Hall if the city didn't have the money set aside. He also worried the $7 million price tag could end up being $9 million, should the project get the green light.

"Let's sleep on it for a week," Higginson said of any potential decision.

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