Cedar Falls councilors take deeper look at City Hall remodeling proposal | Political News

CEDAR FALLS – The City Council is placing the estimated $4.5 million City Hall remodeling proposal under a magnifying glass.

A public hearing was scheduled for Oct. 18 by the council in a 6-1 vote Monday after one council member raised objections and another expressed hesitation about the high cost.

If a contract is awarded for the project, work is expected to begin before the end of this year.

“I just think it’s a tremendous amount of money to be spent at this time,” said Councilor Dave Sires about the project.

City staff originally estimated the cost at $6 million when planning began for addressing aspects of the facility that are a couple decades old.

Sires said he and Councilor Susan deBuhr toured the building’s downstairs, and pointed out that “everything looks pretty nice. I don’t see any walls crumbling in.”

DeBuhr requested photos of the “old” boiler and heating system. Staff have indicated the heating and air conditioning system is dated, with $2.3 million being allocated for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing improvements, and more specifically a new variable refrigerant flow system, fire alarm panel, LED lights, and security system updates.

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“A study was completed with the assistance of Cedar Falls Utilities. This study led us to determine the most efficient solution is to replace the current system with a new variable refrigerant flow system,” said Building Official Jamie Castle in a letter to officials. “The cost was also analyzed, finding it would be similar to the cost to update our current system and will have lower lifetime costs. The VRF system will also give us more freedom and flexibility for maintenance, future adjustments, and individualized comfort.”

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Councilor Daryl Kruse initially suggested delaying the hearing for several months because of a labor shortage and prices for materials, like steel and lumber, which he contended are at “all-time highs,”

A certified financial planner, real estate investor and landlord, Kruse said many of his clients have postponed remodeling and building projects for those reasons. He also asked Monday for a breakdown of the new heating and air conditioning components, which he called “quite pricey.”

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But he ended up voting to approve the hearing’s scheduling, after deBuhr suggested waiting until bids come in so the council could evaluate the price tags, and, if deemed necessary, possibly remove portions of the project or postpone it.

Discussions about cosmetic upgrades, like new rugs, the existing building’s condition, and preparing for the repurposing of the section where the police department used to be housed led to a much larger City Hall project. The council was presented last month with more specifics for the renovations that also will create a more user-friendly space for residents, and one where employees can better perform their jobs.

A design contract with Emergent Architecture was approved for $292,500 in February.

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