Bountiful officials scrap Davis Arts Center renovation in favor of a new city hall

May 14 2012 - 9:29pm

BOUNTIFUL -- City officials will scrap plans to build a new regional museum as a wing on the existing Davis Arts Center, in favor of a plan to build a new city hall on Main Street and move the museum and arts center into the existing city hall.

Members of the city's Redevelopment Agency voted 5-1 late Monday afternoon to initiate plans for a new city hall and a renovated city hall building, which will eventually be home to the museum and arts center. Councilman Fred Moss was the only RDA member to vote against the plan.

The construction package has been estimated at $7.2 million, with $2.4 million of RDA funds targeted for renovation of the existing hall for the museum and arts center and approximately $4.8 million coming from capital reserve funds for the new city hall. Demolition of the existing arts center is expected to cost about $43,200.

Officials have stressed the projects will not require a tax increase.

The change of direction comes just days from what was to be the formal beginning of construction of the regional museum. In assessing how to expend $450,000 targeted to upgrade the arts center, officials discovered it would cost at least $1.5 million to make needed changes.

The idea of putting a lot of money into an old building did not sit well with city leaders, as they assessed the long-term impact. One official likened it to putting new wine into an old bottle.

Interim City Manager Rusty Mahan argued that renovating the arts center and eventually the existing city hall would cost approximately $4.5 million and would still leave the city with two old buildings. The arts center was built in 1962 and the existing city hall was built in 1977.

Now Mahan and other city leaders have the task of putting together an outline, which includes finding an architect for the new city hall, as well as addressing renovation of the existing city hall.

Councilman Tom Tolman, a major supporter of a new museum, said putting money into an old building didn't make sense.

"Why put a million or so into a building that will be out of date and cause you more problems down the road," Tolman said.

Moss, who also voted against money for the museum, said he couldn't justify spending $7.5 million, or more, in the current economy. He said the capital expenditure comes even as budget discussions have centered on cutting costs. He said city employees haven't had raises for some time and there are roads that still need to be addressed.

Mayor Joe Johnson said the capital reserve funds had been set aside, so the city would be in a position to act on the project.

"I can't say we've cut the budget to do what we're doing today," Johnson said.

Because of the newly approved plans, officials from the arts center and the museum will be left to scramble.

Emma Dugal, executive director of the arts center, said the plans will be an inconvenience in the short term but would result in more space for the program in the future.

Dugal said:

"Some parts of it will be a little painful, but it will be a major, major plus. It will make a big difference in what we can offer to the community."

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