Crews were already shoring up City Hall's structure last spring when Boise City Council members settled on a plan to overhaul their meeting chambers. They knew they wanted a lower dais where the council and mayor sit.
"None of us feel comfortable sitting on a very high dais, peering down at our constituents," Councilman David Eberle said. "That's not the relationship we want to extend."
Councilwoman Elaine Clegg said the city redesigned the meeting space to be more comfortable and inviting to the public.
The council also wanted a different seating configuration, amenities for broadcast media and better acoustics to reduce noise interruptions, Eberle said.
What councilors didn't know was how many more bells and whistles the city could afford, because they did not know how much it would cost to make City Hall meet earthquake and fire codes.
"You don't really want to do some of your want-haves until you've figured out what your must-haves are going to cost," Eberle said.
The improvements to the chambers added about $1.3 million to the City Hall renovation, bringing its total cost to nearly $6 million, assistant city engineer Rob Bousfield said. Originally, Eberle said, the council had considered spending about $10 million.
Instead of soliciting bids for the chambers upgrade, the council decided to have the contractors already in the building increase their scope of work. The contractors charged the city through a series of change orders.
These orders, which increase the amount a contractor charges for a job, are common for all types of construction projects, though they are normally used for costs that the contractor did not foresee when bidding on the project.
The city covered the cost by transferring money from its Capital Facilities Contingency - an account that holds leftover money from the city budget at the end of the year.
It would have cost more money to solicit a new round of bids for the chambers project after on-site crews finished the structural work, city spokesman Vince Trimboli said. According to an internal analysis in 2012, postponing the project would have cost the city an extra $200,000, plus inflationary costs.
That's probably true, said Casey Cline, an assistant professor in Boise State University's construction management department.
A separate bid for the chambers project would have reflected the cost a new contractor incurred preparing to do the work, Cline said. Also, a new contractor likely would have undone some of the previous contractor's work.
The only potential problem is that competing contractors could accuse the city of excluding them from the competitive bidding process that's typically required for government projects, he said.
Trimboli said the city has heard no such complaints.
Sven Berg: 377-6275