Concerned that the initial construction bids far exceeded a consultant's cost estimate, the City Council decided early Wednesday to seek new bids to renovate the southern half of the rundown former City Hall.
Council members voted unanimously just after midnight to redefine the bidding process and look for lower bids after the winning offer to repair the south building came in at nearly $1.9 million--$585,000 more than the $1.3 million city leaders had budgeted for the project.
The former City Hall complex, which the council dedicated as a city landmark earlier this year, is at 401 W. Hillcrest Drive, beside The Oaks mall.
Thousand Oaks must fix up the 18,000-square-foot south building for its new tenant, the National Park Service, which plans to use the site as headquarters for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. But because Thousand Oaks will now seek new bids, the city will not have the building ready for the park service in December, a requirement of the lease agreement.
"It was a generic estimate," Mayor Judy Lazar said of the $1.3-million figure, which came from Baker Hogan Houx, the city's architectural consultant for the construction. "I think we'll do better."
Ed Johnduff, who oversees work on the city's buildings, said the Baker Hogan Houx estimate was made before many of the specific needs of the park service were known. He told the council that Thousand Oaks will get lower bids by starting anew, but warned the bids will probably not be as low as the initial estimate.
Upset by what she saw as a grossly inaccurate estimate by Baker Hogan Houx, Councilwoman Linda Parks asked her colleagues to consider dumping the firm and seeking another opinion.
"We paid a lot of money," Parks said.
But Lazar said such an approach would make little sense at this point.
"I don't think we need another consultant," Lazar said. "We'd be changing horses at midstream, and I really don't think that would get us anywhere at all."
Council members instead agreed in a 5-0 vote to have city staff members return to them with a report on Thousand Oaks' contractual obligation to Baker Hogan Houx.
Built in the early 1970s, the former City Hall buildings have been unused since 1988, when city officials moved out to have asbestos removed. City Hall eventually relocated to the Civic Arts Plaza in 1994.
The buildings have clearly deteriorated since they were left empty, as squatters and graffiti vandals smashed windows and wrecked the interior. Thousand Oaks also lost out on a potential source of revenue by failing to sell or lease the structures--still a hot topic on the divided City Council.
Thousand Oaks leaders voted in July to fix up the larger half of the old City Hall complex, the 33,000-square-foot north building, so it could be leased. That work has yet to begin.