15th and Trinity chosen for municipal building site

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By Jennifer Garcia

Plans for a new municipal building inched closer to getting underway last night after the council decided to look at the 15th and Trinity site as the new location for the building.

Council Chair Jim Hall moved that Council direct the staff to complete the procurement process for RFP No. 2008-1637 and bring forward to Council a contract for the design build of the municipal building at 15th and Trinity and the affiliated construction and development agreements and that the proposer complete the following activities;

• Submit valid property purchase option agreements related to the site to be developed within 14 calendar days of this date,

• Enter into a nonrefundable “good faith” deposit agreement not exceeding $100,000 with the county no later than Oct. 4, 2008,

• Commence and complete contract negotiations for the design build and development agreements for approval by Council no later than De. 12, 2008, and

• Developer acquires complete site ownership no later than Dec. 12, 2008.

Following the motion made by Hall, the council voted 6-1 in favor of the 15th and Trinity site, with Councilor Robert Gibson voting against the motion.

Prior to the vote, Robert Heiser of Studio Southwest Principal, the lead architect working on the project and Brent DePonte, president of DePonte Investments, as well as Jeff Wilkinson, an associate from DePonte Investments, were on hand to give a presentation of the floor plan and to answer questions from Council.

Also, members of the public got one last chance to address council and voice their opinions on the project. Most who spoke agreed that preserving green space and making Ashley Pond more appealing was more important than building another municipal building on that site.

Under the plan passed last night, more green space would be freed up for Ashley Pond.

One resident, however, was concerned about Trinity becoming problematic because he believes it serves as an artery to bring traffic in and out of town.

Louis Yord said, “It’s easy to say they’re going to have a left turn bay, but it can get awful full at certain times of the day ... I’m all for private enterprise but I don’t think putting a municipal complex there would be a good use of taxpayers’ money.”

Other residents disagreed and most were in favor of economic development on Trinity.

Referring to the concerns about traffic problems on Trinity Drive, Councilor Jim West said, “I think people worry about Trinity traffic increasing. That tickles me because that would be a sign of success.”

Councilor Gibson was not eager to approve the 15th and Trinity site because he said the proposal they received in May was incomplete and did not contain a cost proposal.

He said they required evidence of land ownership, but what they got instead were letters that said they were talking about it.

“That’s not a purchase option,” Gibson said. He also said that the proposal did not match the requirements document that was put out.

“The committee hasn’t had a chance to evaluate the proposal. It may be similar, but it’s still significantly different,” he said. “We’ve rejected other proposals that had a lot of substance but a lot of blanks,” Gibson continued.

Though there seem to be some unanswered questions as far as Gibson is concerned, the rest of the council seemed eager to forge ahead with the 15th and Trinity plan, viewing it as a positive economic move.

“We’ll get rid of the suite of decay which will be replaced by attractive new space to keep our citizens in town to shop here and attract others to stop here,” Councilor Nona Bowman said.

Council Chair Hall feels that Ashley Pond has the potential to “become a small-scale Central Park.”

“I think we ought to focus on that. Given that concept and long-term look for this town, the last thing I want to do is put an office building and aboveground asphalt on Ashley Pond. The only thing I see it being developed for is more public use,” he said.

DePonte Investments now has 14 calendar days in which to submit a valid property purchase option agreement related to the site to be developed.