The Brentwood City Council Tuesday decided to divide its $75 million Civic Center into two phases, bumping the parking structure element to the back burner.
The move comes as the result of the continuing economic slump plus the fact that the structure, sized to accommodate the needs of a city fully built-out to a population of 75,000, would not be fully utilized in the near future. The 4-1 decision (Councilman Brandon Richey dissenting) means city staff will proceed with work on a financing plan for a new city hall, re-vamped City Park and a community center, and look at how to pay for the $10 million parking structure as many as several years down the road.
Councilman Erick Stonebarger said he's not sure the structure, planned for the rear corner of the Civic Center site at Second and Oak streets, is in the right spot anyway, and hopes the delay will give the council time to re-evaluate the location. I like the plan in general, but I have an issue with the parking structure there, he said. The structure's location has also drawn criticism from the Liberty Union High School District, which is concerned about security, noise and access to the Liberty campus.
The council chose to move the parking structure to the second phase rather than delay the community center component or to hold off on the completion of the park. Those components, Councilman Bob Brockman said, are what give the public the most bang for its buck, and therefore ought to get precedence.
Mayor Bob Taylor said it was important to note that the decision affects how the city will investigate the project's financing, and does not mean the project will go out to bid right away. The latest time line has that occurring perhaps in March of next year.
In March, if the (economic) climate isn't right, I can't see this council moving ahead on this, he said. The City of Brentwood is not going to do anything foolish.
Stonebarger said he thinks it might even be October before things are settled enough to pull the trigger on the bidding. He supports the phasing, he said, but must first be convinced that the city's revenues can handle the payments on the Civic Center debt before he'll even consider voting to break any ground.
Earlier, City Manager Donna Landeros said staff had been reconsidering some of the tactics regarding the Civic Center. Previously, she said, the idea had been to go out to bid, and then use the responses to decide if beginning the project was feasible.
Recent discussions with consultants, however, indicate it makes more sense to go out to bid ready to pull the trigger if favorable responses come back. Such an approach would probably attract more and better bidders than would likely step forward were it perceived that the city was on a fishing expedition.
Also on Tuesday, the council received a report from a subcommittee investigating the possibility of instituting a local hiring preference to make sure city residents benefit professionally from the large sums of money being considered for capital improvement projects.
The subcommittee, made up of Richey and Stonebarger, has been investigating such ordinances in other communities, and found that the most flexible form of government for those types of laws is a charter city. Brentwood, like 75 percent of all California cities, is a general law city, which is more rigidly held to the state Constitution and state laws.
Richey said investigating the feasibility of Brentwood becoming a charter city went beyond the subcommittee's scope, and he wanted input on whether to proceed.
Becnel said he was concerned about mission creep that might wind up with a total re-vamp of the city's government when the original plan was to consider a local hiring preference statute. Still, he said, finding out more about the pros and cons of becoming a charter city would be an interesting intellectual exercise and agreed with the rest of the council to find out more about the process.