Freitas advanced the idea during a council study session on plans for upgrading Prewett Park, located on Lone Tree Way across from Deer Valley High School.
"My vision," said Freitas, "is for Prewett Family Park to become the center of the community. We need to have a civic center at Prewett and relocate City Hall there."
He also said the Antioch Unified School District administration building at Fifth and G streets is outdated and Prewett would be a good site for a new district headquarters, allowing the City Council and the school board to share the chamber for public meetings.
Freitas said Rivertown wouldn't be abandoned, but pointed out that city workers leave at 5 p.m. and Rivertown is empty anyway. He said the current City Hall - located between Second, Third, G and I streets - would be a good site for commercial and retail use.
"Moving City Hall to Prewett could unite the city," said Councilman Jim Davis.
"The mayor threw me for a loop about moving City Hall," said Councilman Reggie Moore, who also called the idea bold and fresh.
But Councilman Brian Kalinowski was more cautious about uprooting City Hall, saying, "I would have to think long and hard on that one."
Prior to Freitas' idea stirring things up, a turf war was declared by advocates of playing fields being built at Prewett. Led by Tom McNell, who said the Antioch and Deer Valley high school grass fields are an embarrassment, several speakers urged the council to put in low-maintenance turf fields at Prewett.
"Visiting teams get a bad impression," said a rugby coach. "Our children need a safe place to play."
"Our soccer team recently played in Hayward, and I was impressed," said Carol Manning. "Our fields have 18-inch holes."
Her daughter Courtney, who had to have the microphone bent down by City Clerk Jolene Martin so she could be heard, said she plays soccer and the two high schools here are the only ones in the league without turf fields.
"It's embarrassing," said Courtney, adding that turf fields would be safer. She received a hearty ovation from the pro-turf fans, which included mothers, coaches and students, all echoing the desire for the increased safety that artificial turf affords.
Freitas said that the turf field issue should be addressed soon, but he doubted that Prewett Park is the proper site for it. And nobody on the council supported adding playing fields at Prewett. But they are gung-ho for providing a library there.
Of the 450 responses to a city survey on what they'd like to see at Prewett, a library was the clear leader, with 250 favoring it, according to Prewett Project Manager Lonnie Karste. County Library Board Commissioner Walter Ruehlig also spoke in favor of the library, saying, "We'd get the most bang for the buck."
Freitas also supports the library but cautioned that it will require ongoing funding: the "council needs to wrestle with how we operate and maintain it."
Davis said his first priority is for a library, and he supports some type of private/public partnership. Ideas about having a Starbucks or a Peet's coffee house and other retail establishments in or near the library to bring in revenue were discussed.
Both Kalinowski and Moore said it would be important to also keep the existing library on West 18th Street open. As far as the turf war, he said that sports shouldn't take priority over academics.
Other speakers brought other ideas to the council. Dee Vieira dug in for yet another fight on behalf of protecting the burrowing owls on the site. John Case said he represents 200 people who want a regional botanical garden at Prewett, noting that it would draw visitors. Steve Reichman, representing model boat clubs, wants a reflecting pond as a centerpiece that could be used for model boat regattas.
Karste said a community center that would have facilities for all age groups along with a library has an estimated $90 million price tag, but only $26 million is available. Freitas said that the consensus of the council is to make the library the top priority and that the next step should be to hire an architect to prepare several options.