NORTH ROYALTON – The city is actively seeking a contractor for the city hall and Memorial Park project and has released more details surrounding the project including a preliminary budget of $2.9 million and design features, which include architectural, technology, security and meeting space enhancements.

At a special building and building codes meeting Dec. 3, project specifics and price were presented. Council authorized the city to begin the contractor search.

Interesting details were presented, including possibly moving the playground closer to the parking lot, installing a canopy at the entrance to the library and branding the space to redefine it as the new city hall.

Early estimates place the project in the $2.9 million range. Of that, $2.1 million is related to the actual building remodel. However, there’s also a $210,212 contingency and $241,440 in soft costs, which bump up the price to $2.5 million. An additional $282,305 is budgeted for owner-provided items such as asbestos removal, kitchen appliances, furnishings and equipment etc.

Costs related to Memorial Park are anther $100,000 for the playground and $57,717 for the restroom remodel.

Much of the building project will be spent converting open space into offices and council chambers. The current chambers seat just 70 people comfortably. The new chambers will seat 135.

The community room will be kept and morphed from a classroom feel into a comfortable meeting space that seats 90 and is also outfitted with the same audio-visual capabilities the chambers will have.

In the past, councilmen have debated increasing security at city hall, but much of that has been cost prohibitive. A few measures are being utilized now, however, those are kept undisclosed for obvious reasons.

As part of the renovation, standard, common sense measures will be added to vastly enhance security. For instance, the cashier window will have bulletproof glass and the set of doors inside the entrance will be bulletproofed and outfitted with a buzzer system. Cameras will be installed in the foyer since outside groups will utilize the community room during off hours.

These features comprise just $10,000 of the overall $2.9 million project and are by no means the crown jewel of the project many said, despite what’s been reported.

“It’s a minimal portion of the project at best,” Mayor Bob Stefanik said. “We’re putting bulletproof glass where money is collected, cameras for when we aren’t there in case of vandalism, since others will be utilizing the building after hours, and we’re upgrading the doors. That’s it.”

“These are very simple, standard upgrades. Nothing elaborate,” Community Development Director Tom Jordan added.

Saving dollars is the objective of the renovation.

Having one contractor as part of the design build process cuts down on cost and encourages being under budget because any savings are split between the contractor and the city and not just for the overall project, but for individual components.

“If the HVAC is estimated at $20,000 and comes in at $8,000, the $12,000 savings is split between the city and the contractor,” Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck, who chairs building and buildings codes, said as an example. “Design build is predicated on controlling costs.”

Aesthetically, the parking lot entrance will feature a canopy and be dressed to look more like the main entrance it has become and less like a rear entrance. The southeast section of the building will be branded architecturally to denote it as city hall with a monument or sign. And, the roof will return to its original standing-seam metal.

“Overall, we want to make the building more welcoming and inviting to the public,” Jordan said.

For more than a decade, the city has talked of a new hall. The current building is riddled with issues – flooding, leaking and ADA compliance concerns. Equipping it with what the renovation will provide would cost double, officials say, and a brand new building from scratch is estimated at more than $10 million.

So, a $2.9 million price tag that remodels an existing, empty property and that upgrades Memorial Park is music to most everyone’s ears.

Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell, who will chair building and building codes come January, said he’s comfortable with the price.

“Things do cost money, but it’s a far better investment in the old library than to do anything with the current building. The inside will be more functional for all departments, they will have more room, and the mayor’s office won’t be in a converted garage like it is now,” he said. “It will better represent North Royalton as the growing, modern community it is.”

Also satisfied is Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw.

“The previous master plan called for a brand new library, city hall and rec center at a cost between $30-35 million. Now, we will have all three for considerably less,” he said. “I’m excited. This continues the positive message going on in North Royalton and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Council President Larry Antoskiewicz, who chairs finance, likes the fact that the project is more resident-friendly than the current building.

“Not only handicap-wise, but even in the way we will be doing our committee meetings. We will no longer have our backs to residents,” he said.

Council voted to authorize the city to submit a Request for Qualifications from area contractors, but also OK’d the creation of a panel, comprised of Jordan, Building Commissioner Dan Kulchytsky and Antoskiewicz, which will be involved in making the contractor recommendation.

Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris was the sole nay, citing issues with the panel’s make up. He felt no one on council is qualified to serve because they are not experts in that industry.

“We’re all good people, all public servants, but we just aren’t in that field,” he said.

Bricker and Eckler, the attorney representing the city on this project, recommended that an elected official serve on the panel. Stefanik could have, but opted to allow a councilman. As the longest serving councilman and council president, Antoskiewicz was chosen.

Langshaw said Antoskiewicz’s involvement makes sense.

“He’s a voice for the people, but also for council. He is our leader. It makes sense to have him on there,” he said.

Nickell agrees.

“Tom Jordan and our building commissioner know what’s required when it comes to building specs,” he said. “Larry will represent the people.”

Stefanik said he is unsure why Kasaris would go against the attorney suggestion.

“Bricker and Eckler’s recommendation was to select people from the city and an elected official for the panel. Why Mr. Kasaris doesn’t want to take the advice of the firm that is the premier authority in Ohio regarding design build, I do not know.”

Kasaris said just because attorneys lend their advice doesn't mean the city has to follow it.

"It needs to be about knowledge not politics," he said.

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