A major upgrade for the Shawnee City Council chambers that includes audio/visual equipment, an unfinished conference room and bullet-resistant panels in the new dais will get underway in November.
The project — which caused a brief controversy among council members when it was approved in August — will be the first major remodeling since about 1989. During construction in November and December, the council meetings will be moved to the city’s Justice Center, 5850 Renner Road.
The project is expected to cost $235,000 at a maximum. That includes $23,000 for the preliminary design plus a $125,685 contract with Turner Construction for final design and construction, $68,101 to SKC Communications for audio/visual upgrades, $13,214 to buy chairs and $5,000 for nine iPads for council members to use.
With the update, the city hopes to begin to solve some problems with the existing room. The dais, for example, is not wheelchair accessible. Installing a false floor over the concrete one to provide that accessibility as well as space for wiring updated audio/visual equipment is one of the largest single expenses. Demolition of the old dais and installation of the new one with wheelchair ramp will cost about $36,000.
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That estimate also includes the cost of installing Kevlar bullet-resistant panels in the lower part of the dais. Not every Johnson County governmental body has bullet-resistant material in its chamber, but it’s not unheard of. Olathe, for example, has bullet-resistant paneling within its dais.
Contractors also will partially build a small conference room behind the dais, eventually giving the city council members a shorter walk to executive sessions and a staff meeting space. The budget also includes money for iPads so council members will not have to have substantial piles of background and legal papers printed up for each agenda item.
The audio/visual upgrading mostly involves outlets and conduits that will set up the infrastructure for future improvements. Currently, for instance, the audio of council meetings can be accessed online, but there is no video feed to show who is talking. Adding video is not part of the current remodeling project, however.
The changes most visible to visitors at council meetings will be the addition of four flat-screen monitors to show some of the background materials and PowerPoints. Also, the pew seating will be replaced by chairs.
The reconfiguration of the room will mean the loss of about a quarter of the seats for visitors, however. The room currently seats about 100 people.
That was one of the sticking points for Councilman Dan Pflumm, who raised objections to the remodeling contract when it came up last summer. Although Pflumm initially supported the remodeling, he balked when he saw that the price tag didn’t include changes to the doorway.
“It’s as much as a house. It seemed like a lot,” he said, noting that it didn’t include every item on the council’s original list.
The designers said crowds larger than the seating capacity could be handled with extra chairs in the hallway, where a speaker would broadcast the proceedings.
But Pflumm said the doorway would make it hard for those people to see. He would have preferred the doorway be enlarged to provide a better sight line for those visitors, he said.
Pflumm told council members the city should put the individual elements out for new bids, an idea the council considered until it learned that it would lose the $23,000 and the preliminary design done under the design-build contract. A design-build contract combines the architect and building contractor’s work into one maximum price and was favored by the council as a way to prevent delays and price escalations when the ar chitect and builder disagree.
The council at first approved Pflumm’s motion to have the work rebid, but then revoted and ultimately went ahead with the project.
Councilman Jeff Vaught said he supports the design-build contract because it saves taxpayers money. The seating probably will not be much of an issue because attendance is usually low at council meetings, he added. Making the dais compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act is important in case anyone with mobility issues is elected, he said.
The update is long overdue and an important facet in keeping up the city’s image, Vaught said.
“We’re the second-fastest growing city in the state of Kansas and the council chambers hasn’t been updated in 20-some years,” he said. “Developers need to see us make this investment in ourselves. If we’re not willing to invest in ourselves, how do developers know if we’re willing to invest in the community?”
Roxie Hammill: roxie.hammill.news @gmail.com