Architect cuts deal with council on new City Hall

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council last week struck a deal with architect Sid Scott to develop plans for the new City Hall.

The council last month balked at spending $100,000 with Scott Edwards Architecture of Portland for the plans, consulting and construction services. It offered more services than two other firms, one of which proposed $144,000 and the other $68,000 without construction, permit or consulting services.

The council voted 4-3 to reject the offer.

Sid Scott, a partner in SEA, attended the council’s regular meeting on Dec. 12 to discuss the proposal further.

The city is preparing to remodel the former U.S. Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger District Office at 3225 Main St. It purchased the structure last year. After the Ranger District moved to its current building more than 10 years ago, the 28-year-old building had sustained weather-related damage and was partially gutted.

In June, SEA completed concept plans with an initial project cost estimate of $1.1 million.

Last month, after some discussion by city staff about the cost, some councilors appeared to believe that the proposal was set at about 10 percent of an early June estimate of the initial estimate, which had been based on discussions with Portland-area builders.

City Manager Ray Towry clarified to the council last week that schematics, plans and construction and consulting services are calculated separately and not set their fees at 10 percent.

“They placed a bid at our request,” Towry said. “It just so happens, it was 10 percent.”

Staff research shows that is a “good professional amount,” Towry said.

Scott told the council that his firm could do whatever the council wants. It doesn’t have to provide construction oversight, an estimated cost of $23,000, for example.

He also told the council that the initial project estimate came from a Portland-area contractor, but SEA is working all over the state right now and is not seeing much variation in construction costs.

After developing a set of plans a contractor can use to build the project, SEA assists in the contractor selection, opening bids and making a recommendation. Following that is the permitting process, planning revisions and then construction.

SEA stays active during the construction phase, working with the contractor and owner to ensure everything is built correctly.

Some councilors remained unconvinced the project would cost more than $1 million. Bob Briana looked at water fountains, listing an estimate of $35,000.

The fountain is 5 feet from a bathroom, he said. “I know it won’t cost $35,000.”

Some numbers are high, and some numbers are low, Scott said.

But accuracy is important if the cost is going to be 10 percent of the total, Mayor Greg Mahler said. Asphalt sealing should be more like $4,000 not $38,000, and he doesn’t see $205,000 in heating, ventilation and air conditions (HVAC). A local contractor told him he would be shocked if it were more than $100,000.

“I personally feel that City Hall would be between $500,000 and $600,000 max,” Mahler said. That’s the issue if SEA is asking the city to pay 10 percent.

Scott responded with an offer: He’ll do his part of the project for 10 percent of whatever is bid for the project.

“If you’re going to do this right, and you’re going to do a building that’s going to last for 50 years, which I think as a city you should do that, it’s going to be a million dollars,” Scott said.

The city could spend less on HVAC, for example, he said, putting packages on the roof with a switch that turns the system on and off, but “everyone will hate it.”

City Hall will need zoned HVAC, Scott said.

The council must do its due diligence to protect city finances, Mahler said. “Everybody loves to drive a Mercedes, but if you’ve got a Corolla budget, that’s what we have to look at, a Toyota Corolla.”

Mahler also said that he was comfortable with $100,000 if the city has 10 bids coming in at $1 million.

In his 35 years in the business, this is the biggest spike in construction he has seen, Scott said. “We will be lucky to get three or four bidders. This is all over the state.”

The city might not get a contractor to do the project for less, said Councilor Dave Trask, but he’s willing to try it and willing to take Scott’s deal.

“I appreciate what you’ve done,” Trask said.

Everything is not cast in stone, Scott said. “Let’s figure out a way to make it work.”

Towry and Scott planned to work out the details of the agreement and return it to the council for final approval.

Under the deal, Scott will develop the plans, put them out for bid and then charge based on the result.

Towry said it was “an incredibly generous offer.”

Present at the meeting were councilors Briana, Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Mahler, Trask, James Goble and Diane Gerson.